Postmodernism and the death of the author.

Antony
4 min readNov 8, 2020

Postmodernism can be defined in three statements

No Truth.

No Meaning.

No Certainty.

Along with postmodernism came the concept of poststucturalism, which is the concept on which the death of the author is based. The philosophies of postmodernism and the death of the author are inextricably linked, and I have a problem with both.

No Truth.

There is always truth. Truth comes in two forms, the objective truth, and the subjective truth.

What an author intends when writing a book, that’s an objective truth. Ask an author about what the book is about, and about their process of writing. They are objective truths. Objective truths have a structure. There is a structure to every book, every poem, every song that is written otherwise they are just a bunch of words with no cohesion. The subjective truth comes from the reader of the text. The reader is not in the mind of the author, as a result, they are often left to construct a truth of their own. A personal interpretation. This can only apply to works of little to no rigidity such as fiction. Pick up a mathematical proof and try to interpret it differently and that re-interpretation fails. It is a very rigid text. Similarly in works of fiction, the more descriptive passages in that text are, the more rigid it becomes and re-interpretation fails.

No Meaning.

There is a notion that art has no meaning. Art always has a meaning. Every painting, every sculpture has meaning to both the artist and the consumer. The difference is the context of the creator or the consumer. Every text, for example, from a personal journal entry to a Shakespearean sonnet, has a meaning or it would never have been written. People do not write for the sake of writing. They write when they have something to say. A narrative to tell, or to impart knowledge. The meaning of a text is intimately tied to the truth of the text, And thus can be both objective and subjective depending on the context of authorship or readership. A poem has an objective meaning to the author, but still lends itself to being analysed and a subjective meaning constructed by the reader.

No Certainty.

Art always has a certainty. That certainty is that of purpose, but not necessarily of form. The purpose of art is to evoke thought and emotion in the consumer. Another point of postmodernism is that there is no certainty of meta-narrative. This is also false in many forms of art, from literature to fine art and digital art. A series of paintings for example, while having a narrative in and of itself, also has a part within a broader narrative that defines the series of paintings. The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are literary examples of this because while each of the four books in the series can be taken as a singular entity, they have an overarching narrative of the whole. This meta-narrative reaches beyond the literary works because they are setting precedence within the game world from which they are derived. I will also cite the Mass Effect series as a digital example, but the same applies to tabletop games as well. This brings me to the next point of this short essay.

The author is not always dead.

In the sense of a game, authorship is a nebulous term that cannot be attributed to any one person while also serving to disprove the postmodernist theory because there is a constructed truth, meaning, and certainty within the world that the game takes place.

A tabletop role-playing game, for example, is set in a specific world with specific rules. Many people contributed to those rules so it has no one set author, but rather the author is a group of people such as Wizards of the Coast, or in the case of digital games, Bioware. In my opinion, because there is no single entity involved in the authorship of a game, there is no death of authorship.

Within the cited literary works and in similar, the author also cannot die because the author becomes part of the mythology of the world setting that the author helped create or helped create. Another example would be R.A. Salvatore with the Drizzt Do’urdan books.

That is not to say that the death of the author never happens, because it does, it is to say though that there are many literary works where I think it doesn’t apply. it really depends on the work in question.

There is always structure.

It doesn’t matter what form the work of art takes, there is always a structure to it. Though the production of the work may be slightly chaotic, how it is conceived, designed, implemented, and disseminated to the masses for consumption is a very structured process.

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