The Author Function Essay

The Author Function Essay

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Those literary critics and conventionally minded readers who seek to critically engage the many texts which shape the canon of Western knowledge too often ask the same, misguided questions. Their discourse is, according to Michel Foucault, trapped within parameters established by a dominant mode of thinking with grants the “author” absolute primacy. Even the recognition of this paradigm too often produces a similarly misguided interrogation: “Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality?” (Foucault 230). These well-intentioned questioners tragically miss the point. They incessantly fret over the qualities and character of signifier which has no meaningful impact on a text’s meaning, but which rather serves to limit our ability to receive or disseminate knowledge. Instead of either denying the relevancy of the “author” or entirely ceding to its reign, we ought to interrogate what precisely is meant and entailed by the existence of the “author-function” at all.
This paper will explore three primary areas of analysis related to this pursuit. First, we must investigate what is meant by the naming of an author-- its origins and immediate distinction from the mere naming of a human being. Second, we shall analyze the implications of the author-function’s widespread acceptance and deployment. Finally, we will synthesize these lines of questioning in an attempt to discover the importance of uncovering the ideological nature of the author, and what this uncovering entails for the reception and interpretation of texts.
Foucault quickly advances his discussion of authorship to the implications of his discoveries, admittedly foregoing the vital question of origin. While Foucault would argue...


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...ho can appropriate it for himself? What are the places in it where there is room for possible subjects? Who can assume these various subject functions? And behind all these questions, we would hear hardly anything but the stirring of an indifference: What difference does it make who is speaking? (Foucault 230)
The romantics and the profiteers have trapped us and tricked us into an almost pathological obsession with the “author.” Masquerading as an open set of questions or an opportunity for productive discourse, authorship and its trappings have subtly locked us into a self-abusing mode of thought which forecloses the possibility of truly free understanding. Only once we abandon our corrupted conception of knowledge will we be able to find the liberating intellectual space necessary for truly understanding the multitude of meanings which collectively form our world.

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