lyef & thymes

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dearly beloved, we are gathered to say our goodbyes...

Some thoughts I have been working through concerning post-modern literary theory and Jesus Christ.

In his essay “The Death of the Author”, Roland Barthes, when discuss the voicing of a line from a Balzac story, said that “No one, no ‘person’, says it: its source, its voice, is not the true place of the writing, which is reading.” The phraseology used by Balzac didn’t seem to be voiced as the main character, and didn’t seem to be placed as the author either, so Barthes had a revolutionary thought. He saw the emphasis, the voice behind these words as belonging to the reader. He said that the purpose of the author is to reach that point where only language acts, ‘performs’, and not ‘me’.
Thus he saw a connection between the writing of language (text) and dying. The author’s role diminished as the words found their way onto the page, and the reader’s role increased. In the same way creation was "written" from the imagination of God, and God intends for his creation to reach its fullest potential, the true author writes in the hope of using language to its fullest.

If a book is never read it is nothing more than black ink on white paper; the words themselves have no power. But when they are read the reader’s mind conjures images and the words become signifiers of some concept or idea that the reader brings into the moment. If you read this sentence and I begin to discuss a boat, you the reader can begin to envision the concept “boat”. But the reader has their own concept of “boat” before I encouraged any thought of a boat.

Barthes then proposes that the author dies when the writing process begins, or else the language itself has not been used to its fullest potential. Any of the author that persists in the writing, any thought to his/her own purpose for writing, should be preempted by the author’s desire to empower the reader, to empower the language.

In the world of Roland Barthes the "Author" and "God" hold the same place. In denying the existence of the author, Barthes believes that he is denying the authority of the idea of God, and presupposes human authority over life, creation, and essentially all things. Again, in relation to the author he says that As soon as a fact is narrated no longer with a view to acting directly on reality but intransitively, that is to say, finally outside of any function other than that of the very practice of the symbol itself, this disconnection occurs, the voice loses its origin, the author enters into his own death, writing begins.

I think that Barthes has missed a necessary connection between the death of the author, and the death of God. When Nietzsche said that God is dead he meant that the human need for a greater authority than the self was no longer regarded as necessary by contemporary modern European society. I think this thought has become annulled by a number of great blows to secular humanism, like the great war, WWII and many philosophical streams of thought that have come along since. God did in fact die, but not how Nietzsche meant it. Jesus submitted to death on a cross, sacrificing himself in order to restore meaning to each of us.

Barthes’ ‘death of the author’ brings new thought and potential to the understanding of the death of Jesus. God is in fact the ultimate author, who spoke and everything came into being. He gave authority to his creation, giving mankind dominion over the earth, and all that was in it. He literally died in the person of Jesus Christ, giving up his authority as fully God so that redemption and the law could be fulfilled, essential subjugating himself to a Law that he wrote himself.

Jesus is the word made flesh, the one who wrote the Law that governs creation, heaven and earth, the angels and arch-angels, satan, you and me. Jesus made all of this, and in doing so gave great authority to the creation. The author dies as the text is written, or else the text does not meet its potential. The reader does not receive all the fullness of the written word. Jesus died so that creation could receive all of the fullness of the great Author himself.


At 12:24 p.m., Blogger Andrew G said...

very interesting perspective; I must say, I'm fascinated.

Your post seems to be an overview of "New Criticism." I'm not sure if you're familliar with the lit. term, so (from The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms):

New Criticism, a movement in American literary criticism from the 1930s to the 1960s, concentrating on the verbal complexities and ambiguities of short poems considered as self-sufficient objects without attention to their origins or effects... New Critics called for a more ‘objective’ criticism focusing on the intrinsic qualities of a work rather than on its biographical or historical context.

The interesting thing is that as New Criticism progressed, its main principle became to take works as independent items… completely divorced from the author, his intentions, or her history. So you could read Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto as a work of Fiction and not as a statement of political intention (that has subsequently been implemented to [occasional] dire consequences.)

I think that a New Critical perspective has a significant place in our modern literary (and musical, social, political, etc...) consciousness. Because of its presence, I have had many professors and teachers who have known the word of God inside out: but have failed to see the one who is speaking through it. They see the Bible on their terms and not on His.

Ok, this comment is too long (sorry)… I’m just thinking. Again, good post.

At 7:25 p.m., Blogger Sgt Steve said...

ok, you two are on some strange drug or something. what the crap are you talking about. I think the two of you's are in a club that goes around talking about these rediculious topics that make nosense and just want to confuse everyone else. jerks. but if thats not the case and I'm just extremly uneducated, I'm sorry, maybe.

At 12:12 a.m., Blogger Jonathan said...

Uneducated ;)

At 12:13 a.m., Blogger Jonathan said...

Good word Jacob. Definetly one for the ol' noggin. I like reading things that change my perspective, in a postive way... like the McLuhan I studied in grade 12.

At 3:45 a.m., Blogger mark said...

Sorry guys, I'm in the club too.. It's interesting that you draw that parallel. I never really agreed with Barthes myself, I tend to go with a more 'birth of the reader' argument than 'death of the author', ie the outcome of the text's interpretation is due to the reader's perspective on things; yet, unlike Barthes seems to suggest in his esasy, the text itself is not entirely unoriginal, and the author does have a certain amount of control over the interpretation of the text. I think that this fits your link to the crucifixion rather well too. We should talk...


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