In 1967 French literary critic Roland Barthes declared the death of the author (in English, no less). An author’s intentions and biography are not the means to explain definitively what the meaning of a text (of fiction) is. It’s the reader that determines meaning.

Barthes reduces the author to merely a scriptor, a scribe, who doesn’t exist other than for their role of penning the text. It positions the work fully separate of its maker.

I don’t disagree with the notion that readers glean meaning in layers from a text, far beyond what an author might have intended. But thinking about the author’s intent, in light of their biography or not, is one of those layers for readers to interpret. It doesn’t make the author the sole decider on meaning, but the author’s perspective can be used to create meaning by any reader. Separating the author from their work entirely is cutting yourself of from one source of potential meaning. Even when reduced to the role of scribe, such meaning will leak forth: the monks of old who tagged the transcripts they made and turned those into Indexes that are a common way of interpreting on which topics a text touches or puts emphasis. So despite Barthes pronouncement, I never accepted the brain death of the author, yet also didn’t much care specifically about their existence for me to find meaning in texts either.

With the advent of texts made by generative AI I think bringing the author and their intentions in scope of creating meaning is necessary however. It is a necessity as proof of human creation. Being able to perceive the author behind a text, the entanglement of its creation with their live, is the now very much needed Reverse Turing test. With algorithmic text generation there is indeed only a scriptor, one incapable of conveying meaning themselves.
To determine the human origin of a text, the author’s own meaning, intention and existence must shine through in a text, or be its context made explicit. Because our default assumption must be that it was generated.

The author is being resurrected. Because we now have fully automated scriptors. Long live the author!

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