Roland Barthes, Literary Works and Plagiarism


Internet users know very well that, more often than not, the Internet scenario displays farcical stories about websites with all sorts of products which threat legal actions, ruins and destructions against poor writers who plagiarize. Plagiarism is now the new bugbear, the new phantom that had been seen lurking not only in Europe, but worldwide after communism.

Vae perversis imitatoribus. Woe betide he who plagiarize. Their destiny is signed forever.

This business has a ridiculous side to it, because certain internet areas and topics are so hackneyed that they deserve to be plagiarized not only this, but the last year, and every day, weeks, months, years, millennia and forever.

But, Hear ye!, from a high cultural point of view,

Plagiarism simply does not exist.

And I’m not a heretic obstinately persistent in his heresy, but this is a widely recognized and accepted fact from almost 40 years ago.

So, plagiarism issue is one of the most complex cultural problems facing contemporary literary criticism. There is much debate today about plagiarism issue in creative literary works, and this is also one of the most critical problems involving almost all Internet Websites, although, as we have seen, the problem is only tangentially related to the cultural field, with dubious or less noble implications. And so, at the end of the 60s Roland Barthes (1915-1980), who was one of the most important literary critics in the world, for the first time used the word intertextuality to indicate how all literary works are composed.

Roland Barthes stressed that all literary texts written by an author are simply unconscious allusions to fragments and citations of other texts. This simply means that, according to Barthes, all works of literature cannot be ascribed to a single author, but they are a collective assemblage of texts. As a result, Barthes paradoxically declared the Death of the Author (1968). According to Barthes. “The I that writes the text is never itself, anything more than a paper I.” Consequently, in the sphere of the literary works, the death of plagiarism issue.

“The concept of plagiarism does not exist: it has been established that all works are the creation of one author, who is atemporal and anonymous,” Jorge Luis Borges said.

And so I consider the matter closed.


R. Barthes, “From Work to Text,” in R. Barthes, Image, Music, Text, London, 1977, p. 161.

Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings, 1964, p. 13.

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