Description and Organization
This seminar will examine modern theorizations of the author from Roland Barthes or before to the present. In considering how the term has been evolving, we will read primary and secondary texts that trace concepts of author functions and positionalities, especially as these bear heavily on autobiographical presentation, subjectivity, voice, identity, and memory. Barthes’ early conceptions and gradual revisions of authorial identity–from “The Death of the Author” to his full length Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes–will serve paradigmatically in our discussions of other works that revise or reinvent how we regard authorial identity and writing/reading practices. Reading selected chapters from Philippe Lejeune’s groundbreaking Le Pacte autobiographique (The Autobiographical Pact), we’ll see that Lejeune recognized the importance of Barthes’ maneuvers for the future of auto/biography studies. A few weeks on Modernism will give us a chance to critically study Modernist ideals of “depersonalization” and how they became a subterfuge for collaborative authorship and autobiographical emplotment. In the remaining weeks, we will examine examples of ways in which editing, composing, and publishing pressures account for Pound’s ghostediting of T. S. Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land and for Gertrude Stein’s ventriloquism in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. We’ll examaine other auto/biographical and fictional works to see how relational and displaced witnessing, the dynamics of power in partnership, and extraordinary spiritual or physical conditions lead to reinventions of the author. The seminar may be structured according to units such as “Reinventing the Author through the Death of the Author,” Recasting the Modernist Author,” “From the Interviewed Author to Proxy Witnessing,” “Author Multiplications” and “Legacy Writing and Author Disappearances.”
Goals: To understand “author” through theoretical and pragmatic perspectives; to recognize that voice/person/protagonist/narrator is a multileveled phenomenon that is readily altered, challenged, recirculated and remediated for various consumers and social environments.
Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes
T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land: Facsimile Edition
Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road
Patricia Grace, Potiki
Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Art Spiegelman, Maus
Philippe Claudel, Brodeck
Oliver Sacks, The Mind’s Eye
Essays selected from: Georges Gusdorf, “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography”; Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”; Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?”; Martha Woodmansee, “On the Author Effect: Recovering Collectivity”; Thomas Couser, “Making, Taking, and Faking Lives: The Ethics of Collaborative Life Writing”; Catharine Stimpson, “Gertrice/Altrude: Stein, Toklas, and the Paradox of the Happy Marriage”; 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”; from Jack Stillinger, Multiple Authorship and the Myth of the Solitary Genius; 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, from On Autobiography and “The Diary on the Computer.”
Requirements: Online discussions; one or two oral presentations with an annotated bibliography; one short essay; a final seminar project.