NOTES ON Foucault, M.  (1979) 'What is an Author?In Harari, J (Ed) Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post structuralist Criticism, 108 - 19.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press.  And also in Bocock, R.& Thompson, K.  (eds) (1992) Social and Cultural Forms of Modernity, Cambridge: Polity Press.

The characteristics of a ‘discourse containing the author function’ include:

(A) Property relationships, where authors appear as the objects of punishment and blame.  [Literary] discourses were once risky, operating between the sacred and profane, and then they became goods (407).  The situation became secure and legalized, but could become risky again. 

(B) Unevenness.  Once, literary texts did not need authors, but scientific ones did as some way to guarantee truth.  Then science became institutional, and eponomy developed as a form of authorship of theories.

(C) Authors became constructed by critics, prepared to attribute deep motives or creative powers to individuals, in a way that guaranteed the unity of a piece of writing and neutralized any possible contradictions.  Critics were able to detect the presence of signs of the author in the text, like the 'shifters' of personal pronouns.  However there were problems with fictional narrators.

So uncertainty and the ideological peril of fiction became reducible and manageable with the concept of the author.  Authors also help to limit the otherwise endless proliferation of significations, offering a thrifty or economic reading.  This view simply contradicts the usual one that a wealth of creativity is unfolded by an author in texts.  In fact, the author is a function to limit meaning.  The usual view is an inversion, as in ideology, a way of managing and coding the fear of the proliferation of meaning. 

Can culture escape these fixations?  It is pure romanticism to imagine some free fiction with no constraint.  Even if we come to abandon the notion of an author, we still have to have some constraint, even though it is not clear what that might be.

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