The Author: Part 1 of 4

Many years ago, when I once had aspirations to become an author, I looked up the term on Google to see what exactly it meant to be one. My favorite authors were somewhat like gods in my mind, the sole creators of works written in a vacuum of original ideas without any influence from the outside world. One definition I found stated the author as one who creates, reinforcing my belief that their ideas just came out of thin air, materializing on whatever medium they choose. As I got older, my definition of what an author really was began to change, in a way that was a bit like the realization that my parents were people too, with their own problems, thoughts, and feelings. The word “creator” was now a less mystical term. I didn’t have favorite authors as much as I felt a certain pull towards similar themes and ideas, and what those things meant to me and anyone else who thought about them. Who the author was and why they created a certain thing did not matter as much as what they created. However, there has always been the question of what really constitutes a work, who it “belongs” to, and if it really matters. I want to talk about three works that have helped to determine a possible answer to these questions.  Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” tells the reader that the author’s personal feelings, biases and personal life should have no basis on the reader’s interpretation of a work. Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author?” agrees with Barthes, but also asks where one individual’s work ends and begins. Written decades later, Jonathan Lethem’s 2007 essay “The Ecstasy of Influence” contemporizes these ideas and takes them one step further: everything is created underneath the collective of mass authorship.


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