When tired, I’ll often revert to aimlessly surfing the internet. While this usually results in hours of YouTube videos of funny cats, occasionally I end up on something slightly more highbrow.
It was on one of these occasions where I stumbled upon the term “Death of the Author.”
The name and concept originate from a 1967 essay by the French literary critic and theorist Roland Barthes. It suggests that the author’s intent or background are entirely irrelevant when analysing their writing. That once it is out there, the reader’s interpretation is as valid as the author’s.
As you would expect from a French literary critic called Roland, there is a lot more to it than that but a great illustration of at least part of the concept is the short story “The Immortal Bard” by Isaac Asimov. William Shakespeare is brought to the future and winds up getting enrolled on a night school course based on his own plays. He fails!
It doesn’t matter what your intention was. Once it is out there, the reader’s interpretation is as valid as yours.
While not directly comparable, I’ve found it a useful concept to apply to my own written communication. Whether that’s re-reading it one more time, getting someone else to read it or even just being more understanding when people interpret it in a different way than I intended.