September 10, 2012

The Author

The more I think about the idea of the author the more I feel that I am beginning to understand the "death of the author." Not so much because of Barthes though, more so because of Michel Foucault's essay "What Is an Author?" What both Barthes and Foucault seem to be saying is that we need for the author to disappear for a book or other textual piece to be what it should be. At first I didn't really see why that was necessary, when I am reading a book I don't read it using the authors voice but one I have made up in my head, and even if I do know something about the author it usually has little effect on me when I am immersed in the text. Yet this only goes for the first round of reading...

I was forced to notice that the more I knew about an author after reading one of their books, and the more books I read of his or hers thereafter, had me creating certain expecations that I otherwise would not make. Thus I no longer just had the voice that I created in my head while reading but the author was there with me as well, their viewpoints, their nationality, gender, and all the other things I know about them are brought with me after I have read more than one of their texts. Yet if I had not known it was the same author I was reading when I went for a new book, would I have had so many worries when I read that new book? The idea of the death of the author suddenly become necessary here and I better understand the distinction of them and the writer. The writer is unknown to me, just as for the writer I and other readers are just a made up audience, so is the writer to me as an author. I know nothing about them and can make up the writer to have whatever kind of voice or feelings I want, it is all in my control. Only when that writer has a name, and from their other real life qualities that form an epitext that I find myself forced to read a text in a way different than before.

1 comment:

Adam Schwartz said...

I had the exact same ideas formulate after I read both Foucault and Barthes articles about the term author and what it means to written text. I have to lean more towards Foucault idea that the author plays a role in swaying the reader or their audience that they are trying to reach out to. After reading your post I now understand Barthes proclamation that the author is dead. In your post you said, "The idea of the death of the author suddenly became necessary here and I better understand the distinction of them and the writer. The writer is unknown to me, just as for the writer I and other readers are just a made up audience, so is the writer to me as an author." This is the prefect break down of what these two theorists believed and this too has forced me to read texts in a totally different way.

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