Barthes Redefining Interpretation

"To interpret a text is. . . to appreciate what plural constitutes it (S/Z 5)."

"The more plural the text, the less it is written before I read it. . ."

"To read is to find meanings, and to find meanings is to name them; but these named meanings are swept toward other names; names call to each other, reassemble, I rename: so the text passes: it is a nomination in the course of becoming, a tireless approximation, a metonymic labor. . .reading does not consist in stopping the chain of systems. . . it consists in coupling these systems, not according to their finite quality, but according to their plurality. . . (Barthes, S/Z 10-11)"

The crucial thing to understand about Barthes is what at length gets implied by textual plurality in S/Z. If it is in fact possible to explode the text into numerous cultural codes and connotations that infiltrate its surface, then reading as the process of "finding" meaning turns into a fundamentally creative exercise. Meaning is shaped--it is no longer deciphered or uncovered. The reader does not endeavor to "crack" the singular code. In the ideal text, a multiplicity of codes and possible significations are offered as the raw material with which the reader can weave into a comparably unique rendering of what the text "means." The boundary between reading and writing, Barthes contends, therefore dissolves insofar as both author and reader strike up a partnership in the endeavor to make meaning. To elaborate: where the author provides a network of ideas and possible connections, the reader must navigate the network, and activate those associations best suited to their own creative desires.

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