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23/1/2019  
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On a critical notion by Roland Barthes

Death of the Author


Twenty years ago they used to tell us authors were dead—but they´re still around and Roland Barthes looks unwell
Vanity Fea 9/7/2013 Send to a friend
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Originally a comment to the post "The Death of the Author" in Project Narrative Weblog:

As to the death of the author (sounds more like “the death of the death of the author” by now, if the author was ever dead to begin with…).

Barthes’ article (however illuminating, seminal, etc.) is to some extent essentialist: it seems to assume there is only one context for the analysis of literature or for literary operations, just one “literary game” or just one way of speaking the truth about this issue: the (post)structuralist context, game or language. Moreover it couches the whole issue in an apocalyptic tone, mixing the issue of Barthes’s new insight or proposed views on authorship with a completely different issue of literary evolution — that is, if the author is dead for Barthes now, surely he has been dead all along, even if people didn’t know?

Foucault’s essay (while still a totalizing affair) reads better in that it seems to allow for different kinds of author-effect, or to recognize the validity of the author-game for certain purposes or in certain contexts. It seems to me that a discussion of authorship and its modes and uses should be above all contextual. How to do things with authors— apart from killing them, that is. Take them to a literary festival, for instance, and analyze their social interactions there, in the flesh.

And, most fascinating, study the way in which authors are constructed in a variety of contexts and institutions. Beginning with literary festivals and rituals of patronage, cliques of rivalry and mutual support, and going on to the institutional dynamics of advertising, promotion, reviewing, lionizing. And those crucial eddies of debate and attention which get an author into the vortex of critical attention (critical attention indeed) in the academy, though the circuit of literary conferences and prizes, into the pantheon literary respectability. Until some of them make it to a literary guide perhaps, and then to the handbooks and literary histories, where authors are both dead and living, and the living ones manage to look somehow like the living dead.
 

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