ENG235: The Fate of the Artist
Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (1967)
•“The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.” (most significant)
•Death of the author is the birth of the reader
•Text is a “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writing, none of them original, blend and clash.”
oDrawing on different cultures
oThings we experience are not original at all
oIdea of the original no longer exists
•Way to interpret text does not only lie within the author
•If our lives are texts and if we know that there are no originals what do our lives draw upon?
oThings that come before us; pieces of cultures that precede us and thus nourish us?
oDoes this mean we are fragmented as well?
The cultural montage which characterizes Western culture
It is always in flux the only sure thing we can know is change and what is temporary
•Our lives are “intertexts”
•For the last 150 years, western art has become more an object lesson in self-discovery than a medium of
•Idea of “What is beauty?” shifts to “What is art?”
oShift to individualism
oQuestioning what is beauty
oArt is anything you say is art
•Artist loses authority through constant fragmentation over generations
oSelf-awareness of your actions
The Fate of the Artist
•Questions the fundamental importance of the project itself; calculated novel
•What is the fate of the artist?
oDeath of the artist
oImportance of the reader
•Campbell is self-aware; but turns it into an attack on post-modernism
•About an artist who goes through a crisis of creation
Interconnected Collage of Form and Content
•Campbell blurs the boundaries between:
oNon-authorial and the authorial voice
Author is Eddie Campbell, but he doesn’t appear at all in the book; he wrote what other people
are saying about him; is it about Eddie Campbell or by Eddie Campbell? Neither? Both?
oCommentary and characters
Hayley; did she actually say what was written?
oAutobiography and Fiction
We cannot know anything; book is elusive in truth
We don’t know if the autobiographical details are true, only the author knows
•Resulting in a deliberate assault on one’s ability to tell truth from fabrication.
•If the reader cannot determine where Eddie Campbell is; the only one that can find him is himself, the artist
•Is autobiographical but alludes to a larger question about the fate of art
oFate of the artist is connected the fate of the art
oFighting against the death of the author
•Cover of the book
oRepresents what is taking place in the book
oThree other things seem to mask the portrait of the artist completely, but he is still there, he still exists as
•Back of the book
oLooks like the back of a stage prop
oEddie supports the book from the back, but he is also on the front
oSounds like a prologue for a play
•All this points to:
oThe book is a stage
•Image on the first page; “Chatterton”
oChatterton forged poetry to gain recognition
oGenius in his own right
oOn the next page Eddie appears in the same position
Portrays himself as a pitiable figure; but Eddie is conscious of what he is doing
•Artist that dies for the passion of his art; the author dies in his book
•Challenges the reader to discover what he has written
•Campbell gestures to the “postmodern condition.” In which directions does postmodernism move art and artist?
oPushing away the artist for the reader’s interpretations
oDeath of the author is the birth of the reader
•But why kill off the artist entirely?
oPresence of the author is in the book, but his is absent from its pages
oIs it more difficult to interpret a book with the author present? Part of reading is the reader interpreting the
novel for himself/herself
•If the artist is truly dead, how can her/his work of art change and transform?
oThrough the interpretation of the reader; several different readers who bring their own perspectives onto
oParallels Eddie Campbell’s relationship to his wife
Play on visionary; difference between what you have and what you get (claims he is a visionary
but takes someone else’s hat)
Parallels “Blondie” comic strip