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Thursday, January 09, 2014

What is an Author? Michel Foucault ( Christina Alex)

What is an Author?
Michel Foucault
Date: 9 January 2014
·         In this essay, Foucault is concerned with the author and the work. It was looked upon as a single entity.
·         The task of criticism is to establish the link between the author and the work.
·         The understanding of language is extended to literary theory through structuralist approaches.
Work/ Text
Unified subject
Reference point

·         Foucault discusses the relationship between writing and the necessity of expression.
·         Traditional/ Classic writers believed in the concept of inspiration: the idea of a muse.
·         Writers like Coleridge and Wordsworth have talked about the compulsion that a writer experiences to put down thoughts into words.
·         An example is The Rime of The Ancient Mariner where the narrator is compelled to tell his tale to a passer-by.
·         This can be regarded as a continuation of the story-telling tradition.
·         Secondly, Foucault talks about the concept of writing and death.
·         A writer lives through his work or in other words, attains immortality with his work.
·         Foucaultsuggeststhathisexamples,thattheideaofperpetuatingor
·         postponingdeathinthecaseoftheGreekepicandtheArabiantalesweremetaphosedbytheWesternsociety
·         The idea of the power of the narrator to forestall death through story-telling.
·         This further problematises the notion of the author as an unimportant part of the work.
·         Waiting for Godot is an example of a text where there is no unified meaning in the text and hence it requires us to look for the author in the text.
·         New Critics, Formalists, Structuralists, etc looked for a meaning in the text even after doing away with the concept of the author.
·         These tendencies were prominent in the 20th century.
·         Writing was removed from expression.
·         Hence, the author disappears and there occurs a removal of the unified subject.
·         Here the question of what happens when you remove a reference point comes up.
·         Writing is a signifying system; meaning is relational and based on difference.
·         It reflects the notion of a simple and self-contained identity; circularity of meaning as opposed to a linear one.
·         Text does not indicate the intention of the author; author expresses through a unified language which reader interprets.
·         This linear trend has changed recently.
·         The author as a transcendental anonymity.
·         The focus shifted to the text/discourse. Foucault states that everything is a discourse.
·         The author still exists, even after having claimed to have disappeared. He is still behind the text because we want a unified meaning from a text.
·         The author's name is not just a name, it is functional as it performs a function.
·         Foucaultpointsoutthatthe author'spropernameequalsadescription. He uses the example of Aristotle to conclude that hearing a particular name leads to associating that name to that person's famous works.
·         The way Foucault describes the author is very restricted/ limited.
Lecture by Asst.Prof. Vijayaganesh, Christ University, Bangalore on 9 January 2014.
Foucault, Michel. What is an Author? Print.
Notes prepared by Christina Alex.

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