Thursday, December 31, 2020

Good summary: What is an Author / Michel Foucault

What is an author? (French:? Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur) is the title of a lecture given by the philosopher Michel Foucault to the French Society of Philosophy in 1969. The lecture is an extension of the same topic that Foucault develops in his book Archeology of Knowledge, published shortly thereafter. In the lecture, Foucault seeks to examine what is the role of the author's function in relation to the text, and what is its role in the way organization, classification and evaluation of texts.

The lecture was written in response, albeit not explicitly, to Roland Barthes’ article, "Death of the Author" published in late 1968. Foucault criticizes structuralist reading attempts to abandon "the author" (e.g., Barthes' declaration of "Death of the Author") and to analyze the work itself, In terms of its structure and internal shape. Foucault demonstrates how such a reading secretly preserves the author's existence through the term "creation," which is an equally problematic term.

First, Foucault shows how fragile and technically and technically fluid the category of "author" is in Western culture; Who do we mean, he asks, when we talk about an "author" like Marx, Freud or Darwin, for example? per person? To his creation? And what is the relationship between the life story of "authors" and their "creation"? And how do we define their work? Is everything a person has published in his life the entirety of his work? And what about the writings he edited but published after his death? And what is the status of things he carried but did not publish (such as, for example, the important text "Course in General Linguistics" attributed to Ferdinand de Saussure, but not written by him, but edited from notebooks of his students after his death)? And how do we categorize footnotes, private letters and grocery lists? "Out of the millions of traces a person leaves after death," Foucault wonders, "how can a work be defined?"

Turning to the author, Foucault argues, is more than turning to a private individual; The first name must be distinguished from the name "author" because they are located at different poles and do not function in the same way. The author's name does not point to the actual and external person who created it, but moves along the boundaries of the texts, aligns and defines their contours, and characterizes their forms of existence: the author plays a unique role in relation to the text - a classified role; It makes it possible to collect and group together a number of texts, allows them to be delimited (for example, "all of Freud's writings"), to extract texts from them (for example, if it is proved that the book "My Sister and I" was not written by Nietzsche), to produce texts between texts ("Early Shakespeare") Compared to the late Shakespeare, "for example, or" Italian Renaissance-style works "). Finally, the author's name functions as a characteristic of a particular form of existence of discourse: "The fact that a discourse has the name of an author, which can be said 'it was written by each other' or 'it is the author of it', indicates that this discourse is not everyday speech, negligible, speech that goes away, floats and passes, is not immediately consumable speech, but speech. That must be absorbed at a certain level, and entitled to a certain status in a given culture "(What is an author?).

More Foucault summaries: