Michel Foucault creates a depiction regarding what it means to be an author in his essay, “What is an Author?” The depictions range from the attitude and format of the writing to the social construction of an ideal author. While the composition acts as a thorough analysis of the idea of an author, I will only analyze three main facets. The analysis involves the function of the author, the idea of plurality of self, and the divine author.
How does our culture depict the author function? Foucault isolates four different characteristics to explain how some discourses are different from other discourses. The argument begins by stating that discourses are objects of appropriation. Foucault seems to talk about how ownership came after books became goods even though ownership is always tied to the author. Texts books began to have authors to the extent that authors were subject to punishment for their works transgression. Foucault says that discourses originated as written acts with loose ownership that transitioned into concrete ownership once the work became a good. Continuing this idea, the role of an author is supported by laws regarding the profession. Author’s rights, publishing relations, and reproduction rules outlined the profession regarding their goods. The author function does not affect all discourses in a universal and constant way. This means that validity does appear to be a defining factor of the author. In a sense the ability to circulate an idea via a narrative or story is easier because society assumes them to be discourses without an author. Sciences on the other hand, or ideas produced to enlighten society requires an accredited source for them to circulate. In the seventeenth or eighteenth century scientific discourses began to be received for themselves and the author function began to fade. For a period of time the author for scientific works were only necessary to name a theorem or idea. At the same time questions such as, ” From where does it come, and who wrote it”, led society to believe that if a discourse does not have the proper knowledge it can not be educational, thus creating genre specific authors. The author function is also construed in multiple ways according to the common themes and ideas in multiple works from one author. Saint Jerome proposes multiple criteria claiming that an author is defined by all of his works with the idea that the works all have common conceptual theories. One must also exclude works that are outliers within the collection because an author is more than just a name. Foucault claims that authors can share names and ideas thus a social objective lens is used to show ownership. An author must serve to neutralize contradictions in a series of texts. All of the elements of the text must tie into a common theme organizing the authors’ common source of expression manifesting validity.
Continuing on with the most significant themes would be the idea of plurality of self. Foucault discusses how all discourses are endowed with a plurality of self regardless of the genre or function. A demonstration is created explaining the differences between, ” I conclude”, ” I Suppose” and a third I. The first I refers to an individual without equivalent who has a designated time and place regarding a certain task. The second I indicates an instance and a level of demonstration which any individual could perform provided he accepted the same system and guidelines. The third I speaks for the meaning and underlining emotional struggle in the work. The third I acts as a function of the author to disperse the three selves simultaneously. While discourses all have a plurality of self, the discourses are not all affected in the same manner. Every type of media has the third I described in the unconscious meaning while the first two demonstrations present at different times for effect.
The last large emphasis was put on the idea of the author being an indefinite source of significance to the work. While the author creates the world in which the story resides, the emotions and thoughts are not completely defined by the words. The idea of free circulation and free manipulation explain how an author has emotional meaning as a creator. When a historically given function is represented individuals already have a naturally evident ideological platform. The author therefore becomes an ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning.
To conclude, the idea of an author is simply that, an idea. Michel Foucault creates a structure of definitions for an author based on the constraints that have been around since the beginning of discourse. While society currently has a grasp on what an author is, the definitions will likely change after the media of discourses is altered again. Though, Foucault uses a large lexicon to convey his ideas and thoughts, ” What is an Author” acts as a useful tool in how to approach the analysis of a common thought.