Foucault, Michel "What Is an Author?"

From RhetorClick

Jump to: navigation, search

In “What is an Author,” Michel Foulcault works to correct a pivotal aspect he had excluded, and received criticism for, in his previous writings--the role or non-existent role of the author. He limits his discussion to “the singular relationship that holds between an author and a text” while mentioning the themes of writing’s exterior position and the relationship of writing and death. Foucault also brings up the question of, what constitutes the work of an author and what is everything he/she wrote? This has kept us from fully understanding the disappearance of the author. As has the notion of ecriture in which the idea of the signal, human author becomes a “transcendental anonymity” (182). Foucault then discusses the name of an author and its function. He concludes that the name of an author is not a proper name that does not modify despite changes in the characteristic of the named individual, but rather a name that is linked to the discourse of the author. Thus, the author’s name is functional, and its function is to “characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a society” (184). Having an author as a function and speaking purely of texts with authors, the “author-function” has four features:

After stating the four features of the "author function", he then makes the depiction between scientific writings and those of “initiators of discursive practices” (189). The difference being that these initiators of discursive practices “produced not only their own work, but the possibility and the rules of formation of other texts,” and that they can be returned to as opposed to rediscovered or reactivated. Foucault defines how “the initiators of discourse practices” are exemplified foremost with Marx and Freud because their theories can be built upon. However, the initiation of a discourse is not like scientific or mathematical theory because it is entirely separate from future developments of it; they are separate because they have an intended omission that makes the initiation impossible to return to. We can only return to theorize what the omission actually is, and through this impossibility to truly know what was omitted are the initiators forever discursive. Thus, this omission constantly initiates future discursive practices but the original initiation can never be corrected or fixed because it was an intentional omission that others can only guess upon what it's meaning was for.

Glossary Terms

The following key terms are defined in the Glossary: aphorism, canonical, deictic, ecriture, exegesis, homonymy, rediscovering

See Also

Roland Barthes

Personal tools
Site Navigation
Wiki Help