Is this a Work or a Text?: A Look at Roland Barthes’ From Word to Text

Is a Text an object, like a Work? The answer: no, as said by Roland Barthes‘ essay ‘From Work to Text’. One may want remember him from the previous entry in the Literary Theory Journal:

Roland Barthes made a distinction between a Work and a Text. He said that a Work is a physical output of the author; the Text a ‘field’ of meanings when a work of an author becomes a strand in a huge web of interpretation. He states that a Text is subjective to multiple interpretations. One may ask: Can a Work be separated from a text? He said that the Text is an event, it turns into a ‘field’ whereas the Work enters in & becomes.

The Differences:

* A Work has 2 meanings: the literal & the concealed, the Text goes beyond them.

* The Text is plural: The Work’s meaning is integrated into the Text. It ‘explodes’ with meanings & is highly inter-textual; in the Text, there’s no definite beginning & end.

* The Work’s source is the Author, but the Text doesn’t have a source, hence the author is merely a guest in a work.

* The Work is meant to be consumed by the reader, yet the Text is entangled with free play of collaborative reading, making the gap between the author & the reader narrower.

* The Text is always superior to the Work, but one must not disregard the Work itself.

Barthes said that one is able to lose oneself in the Text: linked to a kind of pleasure that’s not separated from (the Text) itself. Hence, it is turned into a social construction, turning the reader from being a passive consumer to one who can interact with the Text. He also mentions the Seven Propositions when reading a Text: Method, Genre, Signs, Plurality, Filtration, Reading & Pleasure .

The author have been interested with the difference between the two. And has been glad it had a good point describing about the Text & how it is different from the Work.  Good piece of work, indeed…

* Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York City, New York, United States of America: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001.


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