Michel Foucault What is an Author Explained & Summary; Author Function & Founders of Discursivity

Michel Foucault What is an Author Explained & Summary; Author Function & Founders of Discursivity



so if you took a course in literary theory at the undergraduate level chances are you were assigned to read Michel Foucault's what is an author may be paired with Roland Bart's the death of the author and yet it would be incorrect to think that those two texts are basically just variations on the same theme on the country I think Roland Bart's argument that you know when there's a specific voice of saying something at the omniscient narrator level in the story shahe seen by Dahl Zack which he uses as example yes question well who exactly is that speaking is it somebody in the room is it the voice of God is it the empirical biographical figure Balzac or is it really just a voice within a text that should be examined and therefore may be what you conclude about what it says might even transcend the intentions of the author maybe it is not so much a simple expression of the author's intent as it is a voice which might have meanings deducible which go beyond even the author's designed for it and that's a pretty i think easy to grasp argument especially if it's your first text that you're reading this semester and yet I've seen when I was taking the course for example the temptation to think that Foucault is making that argument whereas his argument is quite more complex than that I remember being assigned this text over eight years ago and the professor said go home and spend six hours reading Foucault because he's that complicated in comparison I've reread the text a number of times over over the past eight years and I decided to reread it again last night and do a video with some general ideas outlined on the board to talk about it so Michel Foucault is not interested in simply proclaiming the death of the author any more then he finds just repeating Nietzsche's death of God to be a final fact in that even if you try to take the the modern approach and focus your criticism simply on the work a number of maduk issues will still remain to sort of take the place of what you thought you were getting away with by disregarding the primacy of say the empirical or biographical facts of the author as a person for example how can you really define canon without retaining some tacit acceptance of author right if you think the Marquis de Sade is simply a madman in prison his his his work isn't really work it's more like the scribblings of a madman on a piece of paper but when he's dignified with the title of being an author whether you explicitly say so or not suddenly that body of scribblings become work right how difficult is it to try to canonize all of the works of Nietzsche even if you're trying to just focus on the work do you include the published works obviously do you include the unpublished works that are philosophical probably actually definitely you include that do you include the rough drafts and at what point do you stop including rough drafts kind of like archives of the Beatles where you have so many demos many of which are redundant but some of which are quite unique that count as rough drafts that are distinct from the the final version that made it onto the album at what point do you do you draw the line and more importantly is a shopping list or a letter written in modern context we would say does every email have an author write and he said the difficulty is even if you try to get away from the empirical characteristics of the author for example the biographical accidental features of the life of Shakespeare etc and simply focus on the work you retain a certain transcendental anonymity that those empirical characteristics are merely transposed into the quote goes in current usage however the notion of writing seems to transpose the empirical characteristics of the author into a transcendental anonymity we are tend to a face the more visible marks of the author's impurity by playing off when he gets another two ways of characterizing writing namely the critical and the religious approaches the religious notion or approach to texts that had developed over the ages of looking for hidden meanings right in say your interpretation of Biblical prophecy the unconventional ways that Old Testament prophecy are interpreted by someone like say John Calvin to reinforce his own understandings not only of the New Testament but of his situation in the early modern era thousands of years later can't realize on a certain approach to the text is containing those hitting means which we still retain even if we get away from the author and then the critical approach of dealing with obscure contents within the text by providing commentary in fact that is the the necessity of of commentary stems precisely from that feature and these retain a certain sense of the author as continuing to exist as a as a transcendental that meaning the same way that Cahn talked about the transcendental features of space and time not space and time as properties of the world as it really exists so much as they are ways of the human subject processing content in spatial and in temporal frameworks that therefore transcend go beyond the properties of reality but still provide the framework that's kind of what we're doing with the author we get away from that idea of the author but hitting meanings and obscure contents still sort of presuppose a similar approach so therefore he asks what is it about using an author's name that is different from using a simple proper name so he invokes the work of analytic philosopher Cyril to talk about the way that country way it was used to be thought of a proper name is not even a simple reference so even for say Bertrand Russell the idea that Galileo is a designation who cannot help but designate a guy but there are other things that seem like naming conventions which are really not designations they're descriptions if you say like the writer of Romeo and Juliet that is not a simple designation of that guy named William Shakespeare it's actually a description for which you can deduce a truth value is either true or false that this property this predicate of having written that work can be attributed to that person for Searle it the theory has become a little more advanced now it's that using a proper name like Aristotle really is both a designation and a description it's a kind of hovers between the two for example Aristotle in a certain says designates a guy who lived in ancient Greece but it also provides a description such as the author of the analytics the founder of ontology etc therefore the author's name doesn't a certain sense fit into that and yet there are differences for example to say that some guy named Pierre DuPont does not have blue eyes or was not born in Paris or is not a doctor if you have those conclusions the name Pierre du Pont still refers to the same guy we just have different biographical data on him but the name still refers to the same guy however if you change some data about the canonicity of certain works in Shakespeare for example if you say Shakespeare did not write those sonnets which passed for his that would constitute a significant change and affect the manner in which the author's name functions if we prove that Shakespeare actually wrote the works of bacon that would do the same thing therefore to say that pupil does not exist is not at all the same as saying that Homer didn't exist if you say the first you mean that there's nobody named PMD ball but if you do the second you mean that maybe several people were mixed maybe a tradition over many years existed of lots of different people passing on a tradition that now we call Homer but it wasn't one author who existed that's the difference and therefore you could say that the author is more of something like an author function that characterizes a certain mode of being of discourse a certain number of discourses some are some are not are endowed with the author function for example an email to use a modern parlance not every email that makes it into your inbox has an author right but certain types of discourse do and therefore rather than simply pronounce the death of the author he wants to examine the way that what you really mean when you talk about an author something like a modality of discourse later on a certain modality related to the to the circulation appropriation of discourses therefore he wants to examine a sort of historical development of ways that authors came to be something one was concerned with for example in the past authorship really was a byproduct of concerns of blasphemy the need to pin a certain discourse down to a person out there in the world who said it was based on policing discourses that were considered problematic if somebody said something that the state deemed illegal they had to know who said it also excuse me there was a strange reversal in which in the olden times literary texts didn't meet authors the idea that they were archaic or ancient was in itself enough to bestow on them the same level of dignity which today we give to a work that definitely has an author and in fact the retention of the Old Testament in the early days of Christian he was largely based on how old it was there were lots of early Christian theologians who had reservations about the identity of content between the the old and the New Testaments but in the ancient Roman era to be taken seriously as a religion you had to establish a lineage going very far back and that was one of the reasons why the Old Testament was retained by some thinkers in early Christianity and the same went for literary works Homer is really old and that's part of why we should consider it a classic obviously not the only reason but in the olden times scientific discourses were the opposite in fact scientific discourses at that time often in the Middle Ages relied on the formula Hippocrates said planty recounts etc but a strange reversal occurred in the 17th century now suddenly literary texts relied on being pinned down to an author where a scientific discourse started to become more and more anonymous if you look at scientific writing courses oftentimes they teach you to do the opposite of what a literary writing course or a basic composition course would teach you to do you're told not to write in the passive voice in a normal composition course but if you're in a scientific writing course you're told to put it in the passive voice experiments were done you don't say by who because that's not the point research has concluded well whose research even citing an author goes against convention I remember taking biology in undergrad and having to write a paper of some sort and the professor corrected me that you don't use author's names you use dates of publication that's the difference between who wrote it versus how relevant is it okay and the criteria for determining is exactly who an author is actually owed quite a bit was directly derived he says from the manner in which Christian tradition authenticated or rejected texts at its disposal if you look at his of early Christianity many Gospels circulating that were some were deemed canonical some were deemed not canonical they had to have certain criteria for determining for example there was a bishop in the Middle East who was told that some of his parishioners were reading the gospel of Peter and he was asked if that was okay his first response was of course that's perfectly fine if it's the gospel of Peter that means it was written by an eyewitness account actually of the closest you could debate disciple to Jesus when he saw the gospel of Peter which if you haven't read it that's a fascinating work he looked at the content and said actually this is a forgery because there's certain doctrinal contents in the gospel of Peter which are alarmingly distinct from the quote-unquote truth and the criteria by which certain texts were deemed forgeries and others deemed not forgeries follow a certain formula which st. jerome solidified which is you can tell whether something was an authentic gospel for example based on criteria of value if it's simply of inferior quality you know it's false pastors will stay and say that to this day you know that the Apocrypha they say is false because it's just simply not of the same quality of writing and content as the canonical biblical books there has to be soundness of doctrine if the gospel of Peter is teaching something which is more like a second century heresy quote-unquote then something Jesus would have actually taught or to put it in a more definite manner than what the other Gospels say the lack of soundness of doctrine rules it out as being part of the authors Canon there's also a consistency of style and this is a criteria that modern scholars use to sort of distinguish whether certain books of Paul are really Pauline or if they were written as forgeries given the great stylistic variation from the canonical letters a poll like Romans vs. Timothy for example then you also have the historicity if it's referencing events that happened well after the author's death that he could not have known about you rely on the soundness of the author as a historical figure to provide the fourth criteria so those all really ended up tacitly or not in our definition of the author and the byproduct of that was the author served as a resolution of contradictions if there are contradictions within the work apparently a overall unity of writing would emerge through these four resolving criteria of soundness however he moves on to argue that there is a limitation to thinking to using the word author only to talk about somebody who wrote a book right so obviously gustave flaubert wrote some novels he wrote some books like Madame Bovary etc but what about this other type of author which appeared in the 19th century in Europe which started something different that could still be considered a form of authorship and he holds these these people the founders of discursivity something different occurs with Freud and Marx of the two examples he gives then simply writing books they make possible a certain type of discourse which is not so much imitated by others as it's continued by them and he argues that that is different from founding a new genre of fiction so he goes through an Red Cliff who obviously wrote the first gothic horror novel which other people obviously wrote and there's certain motifs and and plot devices etc which are the same and he says it's fair enough to say that after Ann Radcliffe other people were able to write the genre of gothic horror novel by using these same themes and yet that's not what he's saying about founders of discursivity founding genres like Marx's genres probably not the right word but you know what I mean Marxism psychoanalysis it's not just replicating Freud or Marx it's also providing theories that differ right provide divergences is it really the case that Melanie Klein is simply rewriting the motifs of Freud is that this is it the case that Jacques Lacan is merely using the same motifs as Freud or is it really that he's a significant figure precisely for the way that he provides divergences from Freud and therefore the idea of returning to the original becomes important in the history of science for example out-of-date research is basically worthless now you might have a little bit in your textbook about the history of of genetics how it was devised with these experiments but that's really just to provide a sort of educational story to introduce you to okay here's the current research obsolete knowledge is totally worthless really in in that case and yet going back to the original works of Freud even after all of these other developments he's considered super important because he's a founder of discursive 'ti rather than just one sort of experimenter long long ago here's the difference reexamination of Galileo's texts might will change our knowledge of the history of mechanics and there are some people involved in the history of science it's kind of a small field but there are some people who do that but it will never be able to change mechanics itself on the other hand reexamining Freud's texts modified psychoanalysis itself just as reexamination Marx with modified Marxism perhaps therefore it is time to study discourse not only in terms of their expressive value of formal transformations but according to their modes of existence the modes of circulation valorisation attribution and appropriation and in short it as a matter of depriving the subject or substitute of its rulers originating or analyzing the subject is a variable and complex function of discourse not getting rid of the author but understanding it according to the complexities of the author function and all of these subtle technicalities that go along with

2 thoughts on “Michel Foucault What is an Author Explained & Summary; Author Function & Founders of Discursivity

  1. Absolutely brilliant video mate. One of the best literary criticism vids I've seen on here. Crystal clear.

  2. These videos are great. This video especially allowed me to understand the essay more fully and helped in the essay I’m currently writing :))) keep on w it

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