Monday, February 6, 2017

Roland Barthes - The Death of the Author - Summary

Roland Barthes's famous essay "The Death of the Author" (1967) is a meditation on the rules of author and reader as mediated by the text. Barthes's essential argument is that the author has no sovereignty over his own words (or images, sounds, etc.) that belong to the reader who interprets them. When we encounter a literary text, says Barthes, we need not ask ourselves what the author intended in his words but what the words themselves actually say. Text employ symbols which are deciphered by readers, and since function of the text is to be read, the author and process of writing is irrelevant.

"The death of the author" notion means that meaning is not something retrieved or discovered, having been there all the while, but rather something spontaneously generated in the process of reading a text, which is an active rather than passive action. Barthes does not intend to suggest that the death of the author lets any reader read any text any way he or she like (though others aside from Barthes perused this line of thought). What Barthes is suggesting is that reading always involves at least a little bit of writing or rewriting of the text's meaning.
Barthes's "The Death of the Author" is an attack on traditional literary criticism that focused too much on trying  to retrace the author's intentions and original meaning in mind. Instead Barthes asks us to adopt a more text oriented approach that focuses on the interaction of the reader, not the writer, with it. This means that the text is much more open to interpretation, much more fluid in its meaning than previously thought.       
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De Saussure - The Arbitrary Nature of the Sign - summary

An important part of Ferdinand de Saussure's linguist theory in "Course in General Linguistics" is what he terms "The arbitrary nature of the Sign". Following his discussion about the nature of the linguistic sign de Saussure argues that the relations between the absolute majority of signifies to signified is arbitrary. With the small exception of onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they refer to) There is no imperative connection between words and their meanings. This can be easily proved through the fact that different languages have different words to refer to the same things.

The arbitrary nature of the sign doesn't mean that it is false or that you can just use any word you want to refer to whatever you want. What is does mean is that language is a self contained structure built on inner relations between words as opposed to external relations between words and things. One interesting implication of the arbitrary nature of the sign is that language is not built to meet a preexisting reality, but rather the other way around.

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Ferdinand de Saussure - langue and parole - Explanation and Summary

Central to Ferdinand de Saussure's linguistic theory introduced in "Course in General Linguistics" is the distinction between "langue" and "parole". For de Saussure, langue (language) is the abstract structure or system of conveying meaning while parole (speech) is the particular use of language (somewhat but not completely similar to Noam Chompsky's linguistic competence and performance). De Saussure gives the example of Chess, the game which exists as a set a rules and functions (langue) with endless possibilities to be played out (parole).   

The importance of de Saussure's distinction starts in the fact that langue obviously determines any possible parole. While parole is individual langue exists only as a social entity that no one has any full control over. Since it precedes parole, langue should be in de Saussure's view the focus of linguistic inquiry. But parole is still important since it is only through the idiosyncratic manifestations of speech (parole) that we can access the langue.

The distinction between langue and parole is also important since it is central to de Saussure's structuralist view of language as a self contained system of signification. Chess exists before any actual game and it's not up to the players do decide on the rules. If you try to play checkers with Chess pieces no one will be able or want to play with you, that is you will not be understood. But when we play Chess, or use language, it's not about the pieces by themselves but their perspective relationships within the context of the game's setting and rules. This leads us to how de Saussure thinks of language as a system of inner relations between words that relate to each other and not referential reality (see The arbitrarynature of the Sign) . This means that to anything we say there is an underlying structure which determines its possibility.

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list of Jungian Archetypes + short explanations

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung suggested that what he termed "The Collective Unconscious" is inhabited by archetype, culturally determined yet universally present manifestations of different parts of our psyche. Here is a short list of Jungian archetypes along with explanations.  

The Self  - the self archetype according to Jung is the totality of psychic experience, it is our fundamental and consecutive sense of individuality.  

The Shadow - the shadow archetype is Jung's theory is the hidden part of the self, the dark shadow that we cast through everything which we don't want to know about ourselves. The shadow for Jung equals to the Freudian unconscious.

The Anima - the anima archetype is the feminine side in the man, the internalized conception of womanhood that every man has

The Animus - opposed to the anima, the animus archetype in Jung's theory relates to the masculine side in women.

The Child- the child archetype is associated with the process of individualization and growing up so that the archetypes symbolizes the developing personality.

The Sage (wise old man, senex) - the sage archetype according to Jung is a father figure which possess knowledge that allows it to become a guardian or mentor.

The Wise Old Woman - like the sage, the wise old woman archetype is a mother figure which possess feminine wisdom and even prophecy.  

The Trickster -  the trickster archetype uses his superior knowledge or position to play tricks with a "tongue in cheek" attitude, like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.

The Mother Goddess - "Pacha Mama", an archetype that represents the feminine side of creation, fertility, nature and sometimes destruction, like Gaia in Greek mythology.

Inner Child - as its name suggests, the inner child archetype represents the infantile, innocent and untamed part of, needing assistance and  guarding.

Persona - the persona archetype according to Jung is the mask which put on when facing the world, in a sense opposed to the self but not completely since it can also reveal something true about us which would otherwise be unnoticed.

Jungian Archetypes: The Shadow

The Shadow archetype in Carl Jung's theory embodies the unconscious part of us which contains things we do not know about ourselves. The shadow is always our shadow and, it is casted by us and bears our shape. This is why it has a close association with the Self archetype. The shadow as an archetype manifests itself in the form of figure of the same sex as the person in question. You'll note that many literary or cinematic heroes have archenemies which have some connection or resemblance to them (think of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, or Harry Potter and Voldemort which makes for a great shadow). As opposed perhaps to the Persona archetype, the shadow is according to Jung "the thing a person does not wish to be". The shadow is therefore a source of fear both in being unknown and in being too well known. It is important to remember that the shadow hides a lot of monsters, but it can also host some "angels", positive things about us which we do not acknowledge. In dealing with the shadow archetype is imperative not to ignore it. Being a shadow, it thrives on darkness and the more we avoid shedding light on it the more it grows in strength.   

Jungian Archetypes: The Self

The self for Carl Jung is an archetypes which represents the whole psyche of an individual. It is the constant and continuous phenomena of "me". For Jung the self is the product of individuation and it therefore bears to essence of being something distinguished from the world. In psychoanalytic terms the self encompasses the conscious and unconscious as well as the  ego, super ego and id in their totality.