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“Death of the Author” in the Literature Classroom and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars


Students in the English Language Arts classroom have access to more author commentary than ever. While following authors on social media may deepen students’ engagement with their assigned reading, it also threatens to subdue students’ own interpretations of the authors’ texts. This essay explains how educators can introduce basic aspects of Roland Barthes’s the Death of the Author manifesto to their students. Barthes’s concept helps students to recalibrate the value of an author’s biography and the author’s interpretation when analyzing a text. Just such a power recalibration takes place for teen characters in Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Hazel, the protagonist, demonstrates sharp literary critique informed by Barthes’s theory when she engages with most texts. However, she initially rejects the Death of the Author approach when it comes to interpreting one idolized piece of literature: her favorite novel. During the novel’s emotional climax, Hazel repositions herself in the author-reader relationship and takes a more empowered position. She then discovers a new parallel text that helps her to find solace and to reclaim authority from the Author-god.

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Correspondence to Tara Moore.

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This essay uses data collected in the IRB project 1019841 “Death of the Author in the Age of Social Media: Interacting with Young Adult Novelists Online.”

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Tara Moore is an Assistant Professor of English at Elizabethtown College where she teaches workplace writing and young adult literature. She has published books about Christmas culture, including Victorian Christmas in Print (2009) and Christmas: The Sacred to Santa (2014). She has previously published articles in The ALAN Review, SIGNAL Journal, Victorian Literature and Culture and numerous collections. Her research interests include young adult dystopian novels and representations of women and girls.

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Moore, T. “Death of the Author” in the Literature Classroom and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Child Lit Educ 54, 97–109 (2023).

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  • Literary theory
  • Roland Barthes
  • Readers
  • Embedded text
  • Reader empowerment
  • Reader-response
  • Authorial intention
  • Social media
  • #ownvoices