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Essay: Foucault

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Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, philologist and literary critic. He born in the third decade of twentieth century by 1926 and died in 1984. In his essay ‘what is an author’ written in 1969, he takes a look at Barthes’s ‘Death of the Author’ and declares that, the ignorance of the author and not considering him as origin for his work is unfair to him and this idea should be rejected. . Foucault states that a transformation has already happened, because by the death of the author the modern writer is been announced: ‘The work, which once had the duty of providing immortality, now possesses the right to kill, to be its author’s murderer’. So he does not negate wholly with what Barthes says about the death of an author, but he rather puts it into usage to start his argument with Barthes. He uses Barthes’ essay so as to frame his work referenced by this essay. Foucault says that, if an author is dead, there should be some gaps and we need to take note of them, because there is the de facto of locality of the missed role of an author and it is supposed to be concealed.
Foucault says, it is not easy task to find the author in a text. He explains how Greek and Arab storytellers have kept the authors alive. The Greeks were giving the hero immortality within the heroic text, and would pay the way for him to have his voice spoken repeatedly. In ‘1001 nights’ the Arabs used to act the story telling constantly in the night so as to keep away from the end of the story and eventually to keep the author from death and let him alive ‘Scheherazade’s narrative is an effort, renewed each night, to keep death outside the circle of life’.(Foucault 1969)
In this debate he uses historical facts to argue about his analysis. Foucault is conscious about the fact the criticism and philosophy observed the vanishing and death of the author long time ago. He declares that the text itself witnesses as a living evidence for the existence of an author and is resistant about that. He goes back to Sade’s work written on paper rolls and reasons the authenticity and genuineness of them. ‘If an individual were not an author, could we say that what he wrote, said, left behind in his papers, or what has been collected of his remarks, could be called a “work”? When Sade was not considered an author, what was the status of his papers’? (Foucault 1969) Yet, he deals with the name of the author and the issue of using his name. He says that: ‘Obviously, one cannot turn a proper name into a pure and simple reference’. (1969)
Moreover, Foucault comes up with the definition of ‘author function’, and says that the author essentially build up the social institution to regulate speech. As speech circulator, the author is the outcome of the growing capitalist marketplace present state or modern, in text publication the author was not known in general. The title of author is a pragmatic tool to classify distinctions between texts and the author. Besides, we ‘project’ the features of an author as a good way to introduce and match texts, so as to create continuities and outline qualities we consider the most significant within the text, and these anticipations and projections differ from culture to culture and in different periods of time. He also does not agree to the concept of the existence of single language, because to speak means to communicate, therefore no language is simple. He was also affect by Nietzsche, believing that we cannot reach back time.
Whilst the language of author is labelled for speech, Foucault ends up his essay by emphasizing that one day it is possible to circulate the discourse without author’s need. Foucault’s essay was seriously affected by American New Historicism, firstly because the describing of an author to a text is social construction caused by numerous socio-historical reason, and secondly by the emphasizing of capitalistic stimulator which needs an author. Foucault sums up that the uniqueness of an author’s name and the role of the author in the society is limited to some certain speeches and cannot be found everywhere as he says: ‘As a result, we could say that in a civilization like our own their area certain number of discourses endowed with the “author function” while others are deprived of it.’
If we make a comparison between both Barthes and Foucault, the first impression we will get about the author, is tells us that they have basically different opinions. They are two sides of a coin indeed. Barthes, relies on the past times while Foucault attempts to grow new discourses, but ‘The Death of the Author’ surely has motivated Foucault, in spite of the fact that he doesn’t mention his Barthes’ name.
Barthes says that the author endures to be known as “Modern scripteur” the modern writer whose self is no more relevant, after the text is written or released. Foucault is disagree with that idea and believes that both the text and the author have some certain egos. He thinks that ‘All discourses endowed with the author function possess this plurality of self.’ (Foucault 1969) In addition to that, several processes can be clarified from the work by taking the author’s biography, he insists and states that ‘The text always contains a certain number of signs referring to the author. These signs, well known to grammarians, are personal pronouns, adverbs of time and place, and verb conjugation.'(Foucault 1969)
Foucault’s theory is less radical but gives the reader more description what an author was and what he is not no more. Yet, Foucault is not pleases with Barthes’ explanation about the ‘Death of the Author’ in finding out the role of the author. He classifies author-function into four characteristics: ‘First, they are objects of appropriation’. This means that the function of author is connected to the juridical and institutional system which cover the world of discourses. ‘Secondly, the “author-function” is not universal or constant in all discourse’. This means that the author function does not affect the discourse wholly in the same way always and in various civilizations. ‘The third point concerning this “author-function” is that it is not formed spontaneously through the simple attribution of a discourse to an individual’, by some clear and composite processes. Lastly and fourthly Foucault he declares the author function of self-esteem pluralism. It immediately rises numerous characters, subjects-positions engaged by various layers of individual, such as the individual text. These symbols are all familiar to the grammarian as personal pronouns, adverbs of time and place, and verb conjugation.
Finally I find the idea raised by both Barthes and Foucault very attractive but the author still has some power and still has authority in our days. Today the author is able to have his work copyrighted for over 70 years and make money from his ownership rights.

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