Kristina Busse

Abstract for The Resurrection of the Author: Ethos and Identity Politics

SCMS (March 2013)

This paper provides an overview over the last century of literary theory in order to address the role of the author as it relates to critical textual approaches. In general, authors' and creators' lives are part of the public sphere, and their opinions and beliefs on their works are sought after in magazines, TV interviews, and at fan conventions. This public celebrity status stands in blunt opposition to academic orthodoxy where the intentional fallacy has remained one of the few nondebatable tenants of critical theory. With Michel Foucault's "What is an Author?" (1969) and Roland Barthes' "Death of the Author" (1967), poststructuralism followed New Criticism in refusing any focus or attention on the author. This is not to say that authors' and directors' oeuvres are not considered worthy subjects of study, but rather that there exists a near kneejerk exclusion of creator intent when attempting to extract meaning from texts. Such an exclusion is particularly puzzling considering that the reader--who had likewise been excluded in New Critical discourse--had returned to center stage at the same time via reader response, reception aesthetics, and audience studies.

I suggest that the academe may indeed protest too much, i.e., authors and their intents have indeed been reincorporated and become central to various modes of discourse. The old question of What does the author mean? however has been replaced with an identity question as to Who is this author? From discussions of hipster racism in contemporary shows to appropriate (and effective) use of irony, from authorial false identity scandals to fannish social justice debates, the role of the author as not only a textual construct but also a social subject remains embattled. Drawing from literary criticism, media scholarship, and public fan debates, I suggest that authorial identity has become a central focus through which we analyze texts and interpret meaning, both fictional and critical. This becomes especially clear in online pseudonymous discourses where identity may be falsified and, as such, becomes ever more important.