Reading through Foucault’s essay “What is an Author?” makes me think a lot about different text I have read, and what messages different authors/writers wants to mediate, and where they get the information and ideas.
The essay by Foucault is a response to Barthes’s essay “The Death of the Author”. In “What is an Author?” Foucault discusses the difficulties of the authorial identity in terms of textual and expansive politics.
In this essay, Foucault discusses how he is narrow in his description of an author, in that he discussing only what is created in a written format. He means that discussing only written work is unfairly limited to this subject of discourses. One can also be an author in painting, music, and other arts. He states: “One can be author of more than a book, theory, tradition, or discipline in which other books and authors can find a place””
He discusses how ones work might not be a work made by an author himself, but instead that this person is just a writer, whom find information and ideas from an author who has already written about the subject and became a “transdiscursive author”, as Foucault calls them. Examples of authors like these are Freud and Marx. Foucault explains that Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, and Marx Communist manifesto has established endless possibility of discourse.
In the essay Foucault, also discusses the difference between a writer of the book, and the author of the book. The writer is a more unproblematical identity than the author, who is more of a voice within the textual dialog and gets included by the dialog. He means that if a writer writes a book, it does not automatically mean that he is an author of a dialog. A text always contains a certain number of signs referring the author. He further explains that signs are personal pronouns, adverbs of time and place, and verb conjugation.
It was interesting reading this essay. Foucault make valid points and really makes you think deeper about the subject of author and writer, and the differences between the two.