The Author Is Dead (was Re: Jane Austen was a lot of re that I snipped off)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Sat Jun 23 01:34:05 EDT 2001

On Fri, 22 Jun 2001 22:39:43 +0100, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:

>Oddly enough, we just had a reference to Barthes and his writing 
>about "the death of the author".  We didn't have to read the 
>original, thankfully, as we had his article on the realist effect, 
>which I found pretty tough going!  Anyway, the point made here was 
>the balancing act necessary between "considering the context of the 
>writing and the circumstances of the author's life, while allowing 
>for the integrity of each literary text in and of itself." Later, 
>when studying _The Colour Purple_, Walker's analogy of writing and 
>quilting was used for studying texts.  So the study of a text in 
>context will use and piece together what other critics and scholars 
>have written about the work, and the words of the author as well, if 
>he/she has written about the work.  I liked it, anyway.

Absolutely!  That balancing act, in my opinion, hinges on not letting
someone else's scholarship keep you from discovering a new way to look at a
text.  And letting context enhance your reading rather than limit it.  Very
interesting image of quilting together different influences!

>The judgment issue is possibly related.  I'm not trying to speak for 
>Ven on this, but when I say that I'd sometimes use things outside a 
>text to make judgments about the author, I don't necessarily mean 
>that in the sense of "good person/bad person" judgment.  But I *do* 
>make judgments about where the author is coming from, as Ven put it. 
>Isn't that part of what makes up the decision of whether an author is 
>or is not a favourite for most people?  Of course we've all made the 
>decision that DWJ is a wonderful writer (whatever that might mean), 
>but surely the perception that where she's coming from works for us 
>is equally important.  And some of the things she's written apart 
>from her books, or said in interviews contribute to that sense of 
>where she's coming from.  Similarly with Connie Willis.  Just to go 
>even further out on a limb (might as well be hung for a sheep as a 
>lamb), with Philip Pullman the sense of where he's coming from - 
>partly derived from things outside his books - acts against my 
>perception of his abilities as a writer.  This isn't anything like a 
>judgment of his worth as a person, but it is a judgment.

Do you mean sort of feeling as though the writer is someone you might like
as a person--someone who's, I don't know, a kindred spirit is the phrase I'm
coming up with?  Because I'm trying to figure out if I do or don't make this
kind of judgement....

Melissa Proffitt
(who blames all you furriners on her inability to use American spellings)
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