Wednesday, September 17, 2008

“Where I'm At, Man”

I suppose that when push comes to shove, I'm anti-theory in general. As an author and reader, I feel that the works (infused by the author and the reader) speak for themselves. That said, I agree with Fish when he suggests that the author is a construct of the reader (quite often at least) as is the meaning of the text. We create an “author” whether we call him “author” or not. In other words, we assume an intention. So why ignore the actual author? I believe that the “author-god” that Barthes creates in order to destroy may well have existed, but that no one outside of the very particular field of literary theory ever ever believes that the author is all that matters with a text (particularly the author's intention. There is always more to a text than the author.

I also find myself asking what's the point? It seems to me that most of the big names that we've read are far more concerned with attacking each other or making names for themselves than actually making any contribution to literature. I feel this way especially about those (like Barthes) who deny the author. I recognize that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, but why does Barthes bother to sign his work? Obviously, he has no intention in his essays, so why do we respond to them as a whole?

Finally, speaking as an author, the negation that Barthes (and others) suggests is not just a negation of the author; it is a negation of the self. If text is created because the words come together based on cultural and psychological contexts and not because of something (or someone) called the “author,” then this is true of everything humans do. There is no self at all. While disproving such a negative is inherently impossible, it seems to me that, in the long run, it makes no difference whatsoever (in life) whether he's right or I am; however, given that it can't be proven either way, I'll take credit for me and my work.

So, obviously, I found the Irwin article a breath of fresh air; I’m sure I’m in the minority, I found myself agreeing with Irwin, including his contention of purposeful obfuscation on the part of literary critics, almost entirely. The non-existence of a “transcendent signified” (which I agree is true) does not automatically mean a lack of signifieds. I agree that the humanities are not sciences. His final contention about intertextuality (see the last paragraph) is exactly what I believe. (Of course, his basis on biography and history means that Kristeva and Barthes and their minions can ignore him at leisure. And I’m sure they do.)