Thursday, January 09, 2014
What is an Author? Michel Foucault ( Christina Alex)
What is an Author?
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.
· 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.
· Foucault suggests that his examples, that the idea of perpetuating or
· postponing death in the case of the Greek epic and the Arabian tales were metaphosed by the Western society
· 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.
· Foucault points out that the author's proper name equals a description. 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.