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Theory in Context

Autor:   •  March 28, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,441 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,548 Views

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Theory In Context

1. Critically discuss the concept of "author" on the basis of the arguments given in the prescribed essays by such writers as T.S .Eliot, Roland Barthes and Michael Foucault.

Contemporary literary theory examines the author's role in the creation of a literary text, as well as of literary culture. Recent developments in literary theory have drawn attention to the notion of authorship. Until recently, an author was an unproblematic concept; an author was someone who wrote a book. Roland Barthes' landmark essay, "The Death of Author," however, demonstrates that an author is not simply a "person" but a socially and historically constituted subject. The answer to the question of "who or what is writing literature" has therefore split to pursue two possible directions.

First, the initial presupposition of reality being created by language (by a convention rather than an individual invention) has crystallized into the idea of Language writing / speaking a literary text, as well as orchestrating its reception. The author as the creative subject of a literary work of art is therefore being replaced with the concept of the intertextuality, the inherent plurality of the dialogical relationship. And secondly, pointing out the idea of intertextuality, the presuppositions of "the death of the author" and of the "resurrection" of a text and its reader have called into question the author's authority in the literary and cultural tradition . The author has been conceived as a constitutive performer of cultural traditions. Even if "dead", the author as a creative subject could be replaced with a cultural-political interpreter of the text. The interpreter, replacing the author of a literary text, can unite both roles: the role of an authority and of the inventive author.

Roland Barthes (1977) proclaimed the death of the author in 1968 and Michel Foucault (1979) has examined the consequences of regarding literary works as authorless, concentrating on an abstract author function rather than a historical, biographical author. As a consequence, there has been a shift in deconstructionist literary criticism from study of authors and authorial functions to study of readership and texts.

In the essay," The Death of the Author", Barthes proceeds a sort of post structuralist or deconstructive view of the author. In his essay he asserted that "the author still reigns" and "the explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it". He argued that the literary critic's job was not to retrieve meaning but to produce an interpretation of the text which is only one of the possible meanings in the text. According to Barthes, therefore, literature is not monolithic but to interpret literature one has to allow for a plurality of meaning. Barthes


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