Challenging the idea of “Author”

The idea of author according to Donald E. Pease is a term that is always changing; it changes its meaning depending on the development of society. What it means to be an author today is not, is not the same as fifty years ago a good example of that is the difference between North American writers in the late 60’s, writing about changing the world, pushing the boundaries for freedom of expression, social equality, efforts that ultimately failed, and Russian writers during the regime of the soviet union before and after Stalin passing among themselves and members of their inner circles Samizdat pamphlets, in the underground scene at risk of being jailed by the secret service. Donald E. Pease article creates questions about what it means to be author, concepts that at some point seem confusing, as I was reading it understood that historically the understanding of authorship was pretty much absurd as the early concept of originality is. The world as a whole just keep reinventing itself, for example Smart phones are not a original concept, one could argue that in fact North America was slow to catch up with mobile technology and countries such as Japan were already ahead of us ten miles.

I think that literary theorists could argue, that texts should be looked as what they are, and we should benefit from what they bring to us, as in Roland Barthes essay “The Dead of the Author” that is mentioned in the article by Donald E. Pease, the author is declared dead and the only authority is the reader. By separating the author and the text, we can come up with more objective reasoning as to why reading certain texts are important, and evaluated them not only on their contribution to culture or society but as how they help move forward their genre, how they push current boundaries for literariness and how relevant are they.  I think is good that we are capable to think without being absolutist trying to make out of an author a godly like figure or attribute to them the invention of ideas. Nonetheless I don’t think that Foucault’s ideas are invalid, and I agree that we need authors and that critics do need to be challenged as well.  The real version of Frankenstein whether is that of Mary or Percy Shelley, seems irrelevant when what I see as valuable is the characters, the plot, and all the ideas related to different points of view inside the novel and complexity of characters. The questions of who wrote this, who and why changed it are incredibly important, but those are questions that are not hard to come up, they might be hard to answer, but to explore the book as its own rises questions from our own reasoning that are more uncommon.

I think is interesting to read a book without knowing anything about who the author is, and regardless if you like or not, and then learn about the author read it again and notice or start thinking in a whole different way. We can say that in the instance that once we learn about the author and read the text again, the new observations are corrupted some are invalid associations and speculations that cannot be verified unless the author does so.  Is it that important?

 

Authorship

In the Chapter “Author” Donald E. Pease examines what exactly constitutes an author and expands on Ronald Barthes question of is the author dead? If we apply Pease’s theory to Frankenstein and, by extension, Mary Shelly we then have to read the novel through the Gynocriticism lens developed by Elaine Showalter. How exactly does Shelly assert her agency and convey her own life through the story of Frankenstein and which character does she most relate to? How did Shelly, clearly a female author, in 1818 get her work published in a patriarchal society? To answer this the reader must rediscover feminine history as it relates to authorship. Additionally, if we accept Pease’s explanation of separating the author from his or her text then it is the reader or critic who must add his or her own history to the text they are reading. Pease breaks away from Barthes in this manner, he states that the reader or critic must assert an agency to the text that the writer does not bring. If one takes Pease’s view as their own then it is clear why two people reading the same text can have different interpretations even though the words they are reading are essentially the same. This is where different theoretical schools begin to come into play. A novel like Frankenstein can be read by dozens of critics yet each will read the text to fit his own agenda and theoretical school, creating an entirely new interpretation from the same text as his peers. Therefore, even if we view the author as “dead” it cannot be said for certain that one’s interpretation of the work does not correspond to the author’s intention.

some thoughts on authorship

I’m going to be very real and honest here and say that this whole “authorship” concept is pretty confusing to me. I feel as if it’s overly complicated, or perhaps I’m trying to overly simplify it. An author is one who composes, creates, invents; one who brings down an idea into the world and actualizes it in a tangible manner. Why does it need to be more complicated than that? I guess that’s what I’m really trying to ask here. What more is there to being an author? I understand that the idea can be confusing in the case of Frankenstein where we literally are unsure of the true author. The story was tampered with by a husband and wife. Yes, one was the creature, the visionary and the thinker, where the other seems to have played the role of editor. Does this mean all editors are authors too? Why can’t we just say that a piece was written as a team? Is it that important to identify one, stand alone creator?

It appears these questions may be tied together by an idea stated in the pdf on authorship. “A common procedure whereby an anonymous agent turns into an individual binds the term to these different activities.” This concept points to the idea of the human author asserting himself into his story. He is the narrator, even as he takes on the views of his main character. It can be assumed that in one way or another, any author asserts himself into his story, thus expressing his own wants, and perhaps small pieces of his own stories. I make this claim based on the idea that people write what they know. As much as human beings have wild imaginations, we do not have the ability to create utter fiction which is totally foreign to us. We must be able to pone it from one place or another. These ideas seem to be touched upon lightly later in the article as the author was rooted in the word ‘auctor’. “To experience an event in allegorical terms was to transpose the event out of the realm of one’s personal life into the realm of the applicable authority”. This allows the event to become impersonal and relevant on different levels to different people. I suppose this is the point where the author begins to disappear.

What Makes an Author an Author?

I found this piece very intriguing to read because I have never given so much thought as to what an author really is. This is actually quite strange, considering I’m an English major. While reading, the only question that kept popping in my head is “What makes an author an author?” There seems to be quite a debate going on about the duties that this role carries. I thought it was good that Donald Pease brings up the question of creativity, and if the individual is determined based upon the material they have to cover. If so, the how do they still get to maintain their sense of creativity to the texts in which they create?

Before we can determine what an author’s job truly is, we must first determine how the title even became to be. I think it was very insightful that Pease introduced us to the term “auctor”. According to Pease, “the word “author” was used interchangeably with its predecessor term “auctor”, which did not entail verbal inventiveness, as “author” did but the reverse – adherence to the authority of cultural antecedent.” (Pease pg. 105) Both such difference meanings, yet one derives from the other.

This brings me to the question of how authorship is important to literature, and to society as a whole. On page 106, it mentions that an author is someone who “commanded respect and belief” from those reading their works. The word “author” holds a higher standard than “poet” or “writer”. An author is someone who is held almost to a godly level. They have an authority that’s greater than any other self-proclaimed writer. This is quite different than how I would view an author in this day and age. Although people still look to authors as credible sources, I personally never considered the fact that they were held to such a social and cultural standard. However, this text helped me to see more clearly how authors have constantly changed and adapted to the current culture that they are surrounded by. I’m glad to see that authors are held to such a high standard, and I hope to see them continuing to grow and make substantial changes for the future.

The Changing Role of the Author

What was most interesting about Pease’s essay “Author” is the way he traces the role of the author across time/culture, drawing a line from the “auctor” of the ancient world and the Middle Ages, through the 20th century “genius” and into today’s “authorless subject.”  “Authorship” is an idea that is so common sense that we generally overlook its implications and this analysis offers an historical perspective of changes in the role of the artist that can be used to further explore how this role is continuing to change throughout various media and genres.

While not really mentioned in this essay, the concept of authorship is different from genre to genre.  Tennessee Williams famously changed the role of Stanley Kowalski in order to cast young, handsome, virile Marlon Brando in the role (the original script called for Stanley to be old, fat and ugly) drastically changing the whole tenor of the play by making his antagonist more likable than his protagonist.  This is just one small but powerful example of the kind of ensemble work that must go into any work of drama (maybe with the exception of a one-man show, but even that requires a director, set design, etc).  Shakespeare, one of the original “authors” mentioned in Pease’s essay most definitely relied on not only his acting troupe but widely varied source material from history to mythology.

While there is still an active theater culture today, it has most definitely taken a backseat as a mode of popular entertainment to movies and television, both of which have followed along a similar shift in authorship to what has happened in literature.  Early film and tv followed what had been set up before by filming plays which would have been seen as “auctors” of a type. Then, innovators in the media began creating a new language, using the medium of film in ways that were inherent to the art form– these would be the “authors” and the “geniuses”.  Television, being the newest of these forms, I feel is just hitting the “genius” era today (or for about the last ten years or so) with the emergence of the “showrunner”– the Matthew Weiners, David Chases, and Shonda Rhimes who are poised to become fodder for the critics in the next “game” of academic study.