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An Application of Roland Barthes's Essay The Death of the Author on Virginia Woolf's Orlando and Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Word Count: 1,870
Roland Barthes 1915-1980 was a celebrated writer and theoretician generally considered as one of the leading figures in French structuralism In his landmark essay The Death of the Author 1968 he attacked the act of examining the authors intentions as a means of understanding the text more thoroughly The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centred on the author1 Barthes believed that to attain the ultimate meaning2 the biography and psychology of the author should be cast aside by the reader and the focus should instead be on the text It is language that speaks not the author3 In applying Barthes theory to Virginia Woolfs Orlando 1927-28 and Jeanette Wintersons Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit 1983-4 I hope to show that critics should not necessarily look to authorial intention for meaning in literature In the reading of both authors work critics tend to pay particular interest to their lives This is largely unsurprising as both women are of considerable interest They have dealt with issues such as discovering their homosexuality and whilst married in Woolfs case Woolf met a tragic end when she drowned herself in the River Ouse and it is easy to look at her work in a different light knowing that she suffered from depression Equally as women writers it may be considered interesting to see how they react to being in a predominately male profession Woolf dedicated Orlando to Vita Sackville-West her lover and in her diary she wrote One of these days though I shall sketch here like a grand historical picture the outlines of all my friendsVita should be Orlando a young nobleman4 One critic described Orlando as the longest and most charming love-letter in literature5 This comment appears to be entirely justified if Orlando was not only written for Vita Sackville-West but also about her The novel is heavily autobiographical as Nigel Nicolson a descendent of Vitas takes pains to point
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