Date How does Montaigne use Barthes' ideas in ‘On Cannibals’? Barthes’ Idea Barthes’ story is about the death of the author. The death of the author is expressed by show of lack of originality in the current writings that people, according to Barthes, claim to have authored…
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This is something that existed in the Middle Ages with English Empiricism, French Rationalism and the personal faith of the Reformation. In contrast to the positive capitalist ideology that holds the ‘person’ of the author as of the greatest importance in literature, current ideology holds that the reader is the most important person in writing. Barthes advocates for getting rid of the myth that “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author” (Barthes 148). He, however, does not fully support the ideology of the author being the centre of literature. This is expressed in his writing where he notes “The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centred on the author.” (Barthes 143). In the current writings, text is “not a line of words releasing a single 'theological' meaning”, “but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none' of them original, blend and clash” (Barthes 146). This shows that they lack originality. They have no authors; writers depend on already written texts from previous authors, which are blended to form what they consider an authored text. During earlier times, the image of the literature was fully centred on the author. Barthes says it is unjustly centred on the author. Literature was focused on his passions, tastes, person, and life. Critics made conclusions saying that an author’s work if his failure. Explanation of the work focused on the woman or man who produced the work (Barthes 146). The history of modernity begins with Mallarme, who was the first to substitute language for the owner of the language at the time. According to him, language speaks, and not the author. To write is, “to reach that point where only language acts,” (143) and not the author. There is also Proust, who, as Barthes says, gave modern writing its epic. This writer never put his life into his novel as was the routine; instead, he created a work that remained a model. This explains more why Barthes considered current texts recreated. They depend on already created models and quotations (Barthes 144). The main idea used by Barthes here is to use history to explain the changes that have occurred in text. The same idea is used in ‘On Cannibals’ Montaigne describes the meaning of certain words by comparing historical practices to current practices. According to him, people must be cautious before making judgements and subscribing to vulgar opinions. What brings this reasoning is the description of Roman army marshalled before King Pyrrhus as barbaric. From Montaigne’s point of view, there is nothing barbaric in these people. In his description, barbaric nature does not necessarily mean different. People should not be described as barbaric just because they have different practices from others. There should be judgement by test of reason and not just by a common report. The people described as barbaric, as described in history, are not barbaric. They are only considered barbaric because they are ‘wild’. They are wild in the sense that “nature produced them by herself and in her own ordinary way” (Montaigne 109). They have not been ‘artificially modified and removed from the common order. Montaigne notes that, in the land where we live, “we always see the perfect religion, perfect political system, and the perfect and most accomplished way of doing everything” (Montaigne 109).
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