Authors, Death, Interpretation and Performance

Barthes Death of the Author is a highly influential work and to this still persists with the ideas that are proposed within this work are still debated and circulated to this day. It champions the notion of subjectivity and open interpretation within a work and challenges the assumption that the author is the be all end all of the work’s meaning. While this idea has been debated and challenged all over the place and indeed within my previous writings I’d like to think about how this fits in when the author plays with perspective and goes in within the intent to deceive?

By this I mean works that are not so linear in their narrative and the characters themselves are unreliable. Like in such works as Rashomon, Fight Club, Citizen Kane, and tons of other works with multiple perspective or that are told unconventionally such as in media res? These works almost by nature invite open interpretation are the author’s word is usually left ambigious. Should we search for authorial intention in this case or should we carve our own meaning from these texts? Should we examine the characters themselves as if they were real or should we take a more allegorical approach and try interpret the message the author is trying to communicate?

There is also the assertion going around that Literature is performative. If we go by this interpretation that Literature is performative then it could be said that the characters are actors or that the author himself is playing every role since every character in a sense speaks with his voice since he must come up with the dialogue himself. But within every other performative art the individual actor colors the role in his own interpretation and performance such as Sean Connery, Patrick Stewart and Sir Laurence Olivier bring their own unique energy and spin to Shakespeare. Wherein does the intepretaive unique art of performance come into Literature if not in the audience? When a reader reads Frankenstein, within his imagination Dr. Frankenstein probably has a different voice, different mannerisms and different subtlties to his performance than the author and other readers. Does that not make the reader as much an actor and give him a bit part in directing if the performance of literature takes place commences solely within the reader’s mind?

Authors, Sequels and Spin offs

The article “Author” by Donald Pese muses upon the concept of author and authorial intent. It itself can be considered a response to Ronald Barthes “The Death of an Author” which as I understand argued that the authorial interpretation stands with equal validity to the reader’s interpretation and that the author while having a particular insight into a work is not the entire final word regarding the text’s meaning. Donald goes into the Eytmology of the word author. He came to the conclusion that it was synonymous with authority and that the author was meant to mean the person who provides meaning and grant the readers context. There of course were other links and interpretations of the word but they mostly were along similar lines of granting a author authority

Though I have posted about this before I feel as if I’ve come to some new questions about this topic. When it comes to authorial intent and them having the final word upon what a work means, what happens when a author continues another’s work such as within a sequel or a pin off? For example Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”? If his interpretation and writing of the titular Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are completely out of line of what Shakespeare imagined, does that devalue Tom or Shakespeare’s works?

Personally as my prior posts here implied, I’m more of a mind to support Ronald Barthe’s views as espoused in Death of an Author that the audience’s interpretation is just as valid. I believe that this extends to works based off of other works such as “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”. Especially since at that point where they become an author and have their own authorial authority so to speak.

In addition to this I believe this sort of authorial collaboration and reinterpretation can leaded to a sort of extended mythos that feeds upon and expands itself and the creation of that in of itself has worth. For example, at this point all of famous Lovecraft mythos is not entirely made by H.P. Lovecraft and in fact I’d argue some of the non Lovecraft stories were on the same level of of higher quality. Either way I’m personally on the side of free interpretation as opposed to hard dogma due to my view that it leaves the door open for moire creativity though I can see the value in the author’s intended interpretation.