Sem in Lit Genres: Reinventing the Author (LSE/CSAP/CW)

Description and Objectives

This seminar, subtitled Reinventing the Author, will examine
modern and contemporary theorizations of the author. In considering how the
term has evolved, we will read primary and secondary texts that trace concepts
of authorship, author functions, author positions and personae, and authorial
ethics. Since these concepts bear heavily on subjectivity, voice, and memory,
the seminar will involve not just readings and analytical writing, but creative
writing as well in order to test and experiment with the theoretical
assertions. Roland Barthes’ revisions of authorial identity–from “The Death of
the Author” to his full length Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes–will
serve paradigmatically in discussions of your own work to illustrate that
all writing assumes, projects, revises or reinvents authorial identity through
its writing and reading practices. Studying selected chapters from Philippe
Lejeune’s The Autobiographical Pact, you’ll see that Lejeune recognized
the importance of Barthes’ construction of the author for the future of
auto/biography studies and activity of life writing. As the seminar continues,
we will examine how the early Modernist movement, promoting “depersonalization”
and authorial absence worked in a counter direction and used that ideal as
a subterfuge for collaborative authorship and autobiographical emplotment. If
there is time, we’ll look at authorship concepts and practices of survivors of
catastrophes through specific authorial positioning (gesturing to Hayden
White). And we’ll see how editing, composing, and publishing factor in to the
literary product (exemplified in Pound’s ghost editing of Eliot’s The
Waste Land
and in Gertrude
Stein’s ventriloquism in The
Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
In other words, participants in this seminar will both read and write to
investigate how relational and displaced witnessing, the pressures of partnership,
and the very activity of becoming an author lead to reinventions of the author.


Goals and Learning Outcomes

To understand “author”
through theoretical and pragmatic perspectives; to recognize that voice/person/protagonist/narrator
is a multileveled phenomenon that is structured and re-cast for various
constituencies, markets, and social and political environments; to grasp the
profound blending of genres regardless of categorizations; to read and write
with conscious awareness of readership.



Will be a combination of online discussion; oral
presentation; collaborative project; short essay; final seminar project.
Assignments will be appropriate to meet the criteria of all three graduate


Possible Texts, Possible

Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” and Roland
Barthes by
Roland Barthes;

“What is an Author?”

Samuel Becket, “Waiting for
Godot”; Stephen John Dilks, “Portraits of Beckett as a Famous Writer”

T. S. Eliot, The Waste
Land: Facsimile Edition;
Jack Stillinger, Multiple
Authorship and the Myth of the
Solitary Genius

Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road; Claudine Reynaud, “Rubbing a Paragraph
with a Soft Cloth?

Grace, Potiki;Miriam Fuchs, “Reading towards the Indigenous Pacific:
Patricia Grace’s Potiki

Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly;
Thomas Couser, “Making,
Taking, and Faking Lives: The
Ethics of Collaborative Life Writing”;

Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography
of Alice B. Toklas;
Catharine Stimpson, “Gertrice/Altrude: Stein, Toklas,
and the Paradox of the Happy Marriage

Art Spiegelman, Maus; Hayden White, “Historical
Emplotment and the Problem of Truth”

Philippe Claudel, Brodeckor Nicole Kraus, The History of Love

Oliver Sacks, from The Mind’s
Anon., Out of It: An Autobiography of the Experience of

Burke, Authorship from Plato to the Postmodern: A Reader


Other Possible Selections

Sean Burke, The
Death and Return of the Author
Martha Woodmansee, “On the Author Effect:
Recovering Collectivity”; Emily Apter, “What Is Yours, Ours, and Mine:
Authorial Ownership and the Creative Commons”; Kathleen Hayles, “Translating
Media”; Mark Sanders, “Theorizing the Collaborative Self: The Dynamics of
Contour and Content in the Dictated Autobiography”; Lisa Ede and Andrea
Lunsford, “Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship”;Margreta De Grazia, “Sanctioning Voice: Quotation Marks, the
Abolition of Torture, and the Fifth Amendment
Requirements”; Walter Benjamin,
“The Author as Producer”;
John Updike, “The End of Authorship”; Michael North,
“Authorship and Autography”; Philippe Lejeune, On Autobiography.