The Death of the ‘Authorlessness Theory’? Essay

Better Essays

The Death of the ‘Authorlessness Theory’?

Let’s face it. Can one fully buy into Roland Barthes’ claim that “The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author”? (172). Even if “it is language which speaks, not the author” (168), an author is responsible for the creation of a unique sequence of words in a novel, a poem or an article. The canvas on which freeplaying signifiers paint themselves seems so vast to Barthes that “the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original” (170). His claim, when taken at face value, is equivalent to saying that since paint exists, there can be no Painter. But it would be a faux pas give his idea such a naïve reading—a reading strictly …show more content…

Both of our questions are answered. Art can be authored, and, so it follows, the originator of the idea should receive credit. Authority, in this context, then becomes the power to influence thought. Michel Foucault’s notion of an author-function supplements color to these black and white dictionary definitions. He defines the author-function as a “characteristic of the mode of existence, circulation, and functioning of certain discourses within a society” where ownership and the importance of the individual are stressed (202). Now that the author has been defined, can it be shocking to learn that “some four hundred women and men from all walks of life” contributed to The Dinner Party, but it was credited to Judy Chicago (Jones, 68)? The Dinner Party, first exhibited in San Francisco in 1979, was a massive multimedia display composed of tables (that together formed a triangle) on which 39 decorated plates (most of which contained intricately caricatured vaginal and butterfly imagery) were placed. Underneath each plate were needlepoint runners. Inside the area outlined by the tables were porcelain tiles on which the names of 999 women were hand painted. The project attempted to revise “the history of Western culture by naming and symbolizing in visual form 1,038 women from various historical periods” (Jones, 87). As with Chicago’s earlier collaborative project Womanhouse (1972), an emphasis on handiwork was stressed. All of the porcelain

Get Access