I find myself attracted by the (even randomly discovered) pregnant phrase, such as “the philosophical notion of the Death of the Author,” encountered this very day it in a capsule review of a French novel, Amélie Nothomb’s Pétronille in Times Literary Supplement 5/20/14.
Forthwith (right away, ok?) I looked it up and found “Death of the Author” at the Oxford Reference site, from which I quote two segments that explain the phrase briefly.
… [It’s] the idea associated with French critic Roland Barthes that a text should be regarded as self-standing, a field for the interplay of signs. The idea is not that things like Pride and Prejudice grow on trees, but that information or speculation about the author and the author’s intentions is irrelevant to reading them. . . .
… the title of an essay by Roland Barthes , ‘La mort de l’auteur’ ( 1968 ), translated as ‘The Death of the Author’ ( 1977 ), [a] phrase . . . widely regarded in academia and the media as emblematic of both post-structuralism and postmodernism in that its purpose is to signal the absolute relativity of the text and the correspondingly enhanced status of the critic. Put simply, Barthes’s basic point is that the author’s life (the intricate details of [his or her] biography, in other words) is not part of the literary object. . . .
Me? I see text as self-explanatory except when it isn’t. (Meaning in it usually is for my purposes.) Then I either go to another book or look up to see what critics say. (Much more likely the former.) Then I want a critic to tell me all about the text, drawing on relevant sources. Cannot dismiss author’s intentions as irrelevant.
Can’t in other words, go with this absolute relativity of text — let the reader decide, letting the devil take the hindmost — but allow that author’s bio might shed light on text which nonetheless has to stand alone in view of circumstances of its generation — time, gestalt, spirit of the age, etc.
As my pixie-ish Latin teacher said long ago, is any of that clear?