Michel Foucault, an influential French philosopher of the last half of the 20th century whose work dealt primarily with the relationship between knowledge and power, opens his essay , "What is an Author?" with a quote from Samuel Beckett which at once, asserts and summarizes it's point: "What matters...
Michel Foucault, an influential French philosopher of the last half of the 20th century whose work dealt primarily with the relationship between knowledge and power, opens his essay, "What is an Author?" with a quote from Samuel Beckett which at once, asserts and summarizes it's point: "What matters who's speaking?"
Appearing during the now-venerable era of the "death of the author," it posits the role of the author as an "author-function". This status originally arises from the legal codification of books and speeches as property, "only when the author became subject to punishment" due to the nature of the text. As Foucault describes this first author-function, the author's name stands for a specific manner of discourse and the manner in which it is regulated in the culture in which it circulates.
The second feature of the author-function is that it is not universal in all discourse. He offers as examples the folk tales and epics which circulated widely despite anonymous authorship.
The third aspect of the author-function is that it isn't formed spontaneously through the attribution of a discourse to a known individual. Rather, it results from a collective effort to construct the entity we call the "author" when we speak of an "original individual's 'profundity' or 'creative power'...."
The fourth quality is that it doesn't apply to any person, except insofar as it generates a series of subjective positions that any individual could come to occupy.
There is one final type of author, who Foucault places in a separate category unlike other canonical names, designating them as "initiators of discursive practices". He cites Marx and Freud as the first two such "initiators" and describes as their distinctive contribution, that their works created the possibility and the rules of formation for other texts, establishing the potential for endless discourse.
In conclusion, Foucault envisions a culture in which discourses "...would unfold in pervasive anonymity." And the only relevant question would be, "What matters who's speaking?"