Problemos ISSN 1392-1126 eISSN 2424-6158
2019, vol. 95, pp. 105–116 DOI: https://doi.org/10.15388/Problemos.95.9
Filosofija ir menas / Philosophy and Art
The Philosophical Mea Culpa of the Icons of the Death of the Author
Department of Literature, Faculty of Philology, University of Prishtina
Abstract. We will hereinafter discuss the author’s philosophy on gnoseological and historical premises. More precisely, by exploring the genealogy of the idea of the “Death of the Author” from modernism to postmodernism, we will analyse the concepts and ideologies that have become the stratagem of the denial of western literary canon, as well as the denial of equilibrium between philosophical and literary identity and universality. By treating the works of philosophers, authors, and fundamental semiologists who perpetuated the idea of the Death of the Author, we will observe how the latter gradually fled from the philosophy of doubt and as mea culpa admitted that without the author’s authority the philosophical and literary legacy is no longer the theatre of memory, but the abyss of oblivion. Moreover, with fundamental examples, we will observe the influence of this philosophy in the process of studying of the literature.
Keywords: philosophy of literature, the Death of the Author, classic literature, identity, teaching of literature
Didžiųjų autoriaus mirties proponentų filosofinis mea culpa
Santrauka. Straipsnyje aptariamos autoriaus filosofijos gnoseologinės ir istorinės prielaidos. Tiksliau, aptarę „autoriaus mirties“ idėjos genealogiją nuo modernizmo iki postmodernizmo, analizuojame sąvokas ir ideologijas, kurios tapo strategemomis neigiant Vakarų literatūros kanoną, griaunant pusiausvyrą tarp filosofinės ir literatūrinės tapatybės bei universalumo. Nagrinėdami filosofų, autorių ir pagrindinių semiologų darbus, palaikiusius autoriaus mirties idėją, parodome, kaip ši palaipsniui išnyko iš abejonių filosofijos ir kaip mea culpa pripažino, kad be autoriaus autoriteto filosofinis ir literatūrinis palikimas liaujasi būti atminties teatru ir virsta užmaršties bedugne. Straipsnyje pasitelkdami fundamentalius pavyzdžius parodome šios filosofijos įtaką literatūros studijų procesui.
Pagrindiniai žodžiai: literatūros filosofija, autoriaus mirtis, klasikinė literatūra, tapatybė, literatūros mokymas
Received: 13/1/2019. Accepted: 27/2/2019
Copyright © Nysret Krasniqi, 2019. Published by Vilnius University Press.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
1. The Icons of Author Denial
Within the philosophy of literature, the concept of the author has always incited perplexity of the debates, which as old as they are new, furthermore, apparently, will continue to be such until the phenomenon of literature changes itself, as immanent human mimetic requirement or as a requirement for the creation of the idiosyncratic artistic world. As we know, the fundamental blow to the traditional concept of the author was given by Roland Barthes, who in his famous essay wrote: “We know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (Barthes 1977a: 148). This finding, as it is seen, projects a future, then a denial of a myth and the Death of the Author (author with a capital A) in favour of the birth of the reader. In our observation, the future meant the utopian novelty, even as an ideological reformation, the overthrow of myth, implied the challenge to the author’s religious affiliation, while the Death of the Author meant denying the author as a writing intention and as an influence intent in the literary study. Meanwhile, the birth of the reader was projected as a game in literary linguistic discourse, moreover, as the utopia of replacing the historical role of the author of literature.
This idea of Barthes had begun earlier. In his article of 1960, entitled “Authors and Writers”, giving priority to melting of the author into linguistic discourse, he concludes that “the author performs a function, the writer activity” (Barthes 2007: 186). Seeing the author’s function as a canonizer of tradition, which does not possess any practical function, furthermore, lives as a phenomenological inertia, where the one who wrote such a work only took the responsibility of recreating the literary form and exactly this linguistic form has undermined his intent, while Roland Barthes gives priority to the writer by saying: “The writer’s function is to say at once and on every occasion what he thinks” (Barthes 2007: 191). The writer’s activity implies the function of his text, moreover, the immediate influence, even by making a cut through the literary tradition.
In reinforcement of this idea, even in an attempt to clarify it, Michel Foucault, a historian of ideas, says that “as a result, the mark of the writer is reduced to nothing more than the singularity of his absence; he must assume the role of the dead man in the game of writing” (Foucault 1999: 175). Seeing the author as just a plus sign in the philosophical and literary discourse, Foucault, in this essay, proposed the author’s concept of function, distinctive from the traditional author’s concept as a creator of the literary work, even recapturing Barthes’s concept introduced in 1960. Foucault, through the creation of many notions, and especially of his concept of epistemology, saw the author only in the function of discourse, consequently removed and merged in the big epistemological discourse blocks.
In this flow, Barthes wrote the essay leading this philosophy: “From Work to Text”, challenging the literary classics, and consequently the classical author. “Text is experienced only in an activity of production”, says Barthes, as well as ascertains, in this prism, that within this activity we have lisible (readerly text) and scriptible (writerly) text (Barthes 1977: 157). Barthes favours the scriptable text, since, as he says, “the goal of literary work is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text” (Barthes 1974: 4). Herein, there is a gradual slither towards allowing the reader to take part in the ownership or the literary authorship of the work. We do not know the reader’s role in writing process of the literary text. Here, apparently, the author’s phenomenology ends up in a vacuum or a philosophical aporia.
The demand for an idealness of literature without the author’s presence, without his influence, seems easy to design, however difficult to realize. Nevertheless, on this occasion, we emphasize that “the idea of author’s killing” is not new, moreover, Thomas Stearns Eliot can be considered its predecessor, who in 1919 in his famous essay “Tradition and Individual Talent”, while discussing the linkage between the writer and his text, argued for literary text to be impersonal, thus distanced from personal sentiments. This was a call for removing intentionality and a requirement for removal of the domination of the biographical, positivistic and, therefore, extra-literary signs in literary hermeneutics. Focusing mainly on the genre of poetry, Eliot emphasized: “Impressions and experiences which are important for the man may take no place in his poetry, and those which become important in his poetry may play quite a negligible part in the man, the personality” (Eliot 1920: 56). Therefore, this idea turns out to be new, in particular when we have in mind the concept of intentional fallacy of William K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley, even as a reaffirmation of Eliot’s ideas. These two authors, considering a certain number of Eliot’s poems and accepting his anti-psychological concept, emphasized that interpretation of the literary text should be released from the author’s influence, from the tradition of his intent, even for the fact that the author’s intent does not help the aesthetic value of the literary work in its intention to become universal value.
The recommencement of Eliot’s remarks comes from this finding: “We argued that the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art, and it seems to us that this is a principle which goes deep into some differences in the history of critical attitudes” (Wimsatt 1946: 468). Nonetheless, this author’s exclusion from his possible influence on literary criticism was made for purely aesthetic purposes, even for proving that the literary work surpasses the primary authoritative meanings for obtaining different meanings and evaluations during readings at different times, consistent with the reader’s capacity and competence. Nevertheless, the idea of the Death of the Author, made famous by Barthes, moreover considered new in the discourse of human sciences, does not seem to be entirely authentic. This is also noticed by Philip Thody, who states that “his views on the Death of the Author are a repetition in more grandiose terms of an attitude axiomatic in the American ‘New Critics’ of the 1930s and most elegantly expressed in the early essays of T. S. Eliot” (Thody 1977: 16).
Another element is the modernist concept itself, which, seeing the author as an image of God, in the generic sense of the notion, did not accept doctrinal religiosity in literature. For the modernist concept, as the legacy of symbolism, and under the fundamental influence of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy, the literary word itself, in its mysterious space, contained a specific religiosity. This did not allow the limitations of religious moral, hence the doctrinal critic, of artistic religiosity, which required a form of nihilism to reach to the artistic beauty. Friedrich Nietzsche, writing a new preface to the 1886 edition of his work The Birth of Tragedy, emphasized:
From the very outset Christianity was essentially and pervasively the feeling of disgust and weariness which life felt for life, a feeling which merely disguised, hid and decked itself out in its belief in “another” or “better” life. Hatred of “the world”, a curse in the passions, fear of beauty and sensuality, a Beyond, invented in order better to defame the Here-and-Now, fundamentally a desire for nothingness, for the end, for rest, for the Sabbath of Sabbaths. (Nietzsche 1999: 9)
Fear of beauty and sensuality and “desire for nothing” as the denial of God, as a Nietzschean philosophy, no doubt that it would give the signal of denial of the traditional concept for the author and the embrace of the concepts of game and pleasure, in Barthes, Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, who were perpetuated by this philosopher.
But apart from the great influence of Nietzsche, particularly with his conception of the great power of metaphor, these philosophers, within the French cultural space, were tremendously influence by Maurice Blanchot. In Blanchot’s work The Space of Literature (1955), on the issue of the author’s phenomenon and the relation of the literature with the religiosity, can be considered as Nietzsche’s (double) self. In his obscure findings and a sort of autonomous nihilism, Blanchot says:
The work of art does not refer immediately back to the person who presumably made it. When we know nothing at all about the circumstances that contributed to its production, about the history of its creation – when we do not even know the name of the person who made it possible – it is then that the work comes closest to itself. (Blanchot 1989: 221)
The impersonified author, even as merging into literary creativity, is always observed through the prism of death. For Blanchot, the literary work only tries to approach the space of literature, which in the course of this process undermines the author and pushes him to death or to the search for death. In further justification of this philosophy, Blanchot takes the examples of death in Stéphane Mallarme’s verses, literature as the death space of Franz Kafka, the philosophy of Igitur, etc., in order to erase all signs of metaphysics of the presence. This is a continuation of nihilism, a demand for a world of anonymity, which this philosopher wanted in life as well. Also, this is putting in doubt the relationship of this philosophy to the concept of tradition and heritage, as a requirement for the theatre of memory and as a struggle against oblivion.
2. The Deconstruction of the Tradition
In the discourse of human sciences, French philosopher Jacques Derrida is considered to be the father of deconstruction philosophy, thus of the philosophy of the discourse game where the author, author-figure, author’s intentionality, or linkage of literary text with external references does not have any weight, as the strict denial of the very notion of author’s creativity. The philosophical findings of Derrida are now well known: there is nothing outside the text, then bricolage. And his “explanation” for the deconstruction philosophy as follows: “Deconstruction does not consist in passing from one concept to another, but in overturning and displacing a conceptual order, as well as the non-conceptual order with which the conceptual order is articulated” (Derrida 1991: 108). The philosophy “there is nothing outside the text” combines Nietzschean nihilism, the space of death of Blanchot, the anti-intentionality of the Eliotian tradition, reinforcing the philosophy of the transformation of oral and written text to the acceptance of the philosophy of the discourse of a postmodern neo-myth. From here likewise emerges “the role” of the author as a player of discursive pieces or bricolages, which erases himself as Barthes says, furthermore, he calls the reader in the continuous play of human discourse. However, additionally, deconstruction further reinforces the philosophy of indecision by not accepting any sort of order, nor any kind of stabilized structure. The author no longer lives either as an institution, as a function, as a figure, nor as a signature. This is a philosopheme of infinite discursive freedom as a requirement for anonymity re-establishment. Furthermore, Derrida’s own request seems to be such, as, among others, in his Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences he emphasizes the absence of “structurality of the structure”, namely the lack of a “fixed centre” (Derrida 1999: 89). The absence of a fixed centre means permanent play or difference, which favours discursive mutations and a kind of discursive monstrosity. The difference or permanent instability of the markers has preoccupied Jacques Derrida in all the writings of his research zenith. Deconstructing a text, whether of the philosophical tradition or of literary tradition, according to Derrida, means to acknowledge that the text never deliberately delivers what the author wanted to say.
However, this philosophical mood reflected on the literary teaching itself, especially of the authors of the tradition, of the literary canon (according to Harold Bloom’s concept), when in the form these philosophers “isolated” the author, denied the only normative principle for literary interpretation, searched for language game and constant differentiation, opposed the intent, the document, the archive, the biography, and consequently opposed the literary tradition, which served to realize all their structuralist and post-structuralist philosophies. The fundamental issue raised hereby is regarding the problem of preserving the “western canon”, that body of great works “that have stood the test of time and that, until recently, were acknowledged as central to a complete education” (Windschuttle 1997: 11).
These concepts, launched by these icons of Western philosophy, despite constant controversies, have dominated the philosophical-theoretical discourse of literary criticism for about half a century.
Prior to our dealing with this dominance of the concept of Death of the Author, in the literary teaching itself, let us see how the proclaimers of this idea have changed their concepts of this very same idea, somehow fleeing from the philosophy of doubt.
3. Philosophy of Doubt Abandoned
Already, the essential figures or icons of the opinion of the Death of the Author, such as Eliot, Blanchot, Barthes, Derrida are not among us, but their authorial sign is more than present. This is the power of the tradition, which canonizes and makes part of it even the attack on itself.
Nevertheless, if Elliot in the 1920s exerted the impersonality as an anti-intentionality, he did firmly seek the connection with the tradition, moreover, afterwards he sought the strengthening of the awareness for religiosity as a cultural heritage. At a time when two great ideological forces, fascism and communism were colliding within Western culture, Eliot wrote his essays on European civilization, reaffirming canonical works and the role of Christian culture in their establishment, seeing this role as the basic foundation of European cultural unity:
Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian Faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture readymade. (Eliot 1960: 200)
As observed, a poet of anti-intentionality, a successor of the Nietzschean metaphor and canonizer of modernism, dubious of Church authority (in the beginning), etc., now sees that the Christian tradition has produced Nietzsche as well, and then convinced the author himself, and has influenced him to now firmly defend the fundamental pillar of Western culture, the morality of Christian life and Christian conduct. On these basic points of his authorship, the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton analysing Eliot’s work Four Quartets (1943) says: “he presents a quasi-monastic vision in verse of enormous poet, which helped shape the conservative thinking in the decades following the war. One message of the poem is that the spiritual tradition that in our daily life seems dead and buried persist in sacred places and symbols” (Scruton 2017: 86). Thus, Eliot, even though as a deceased author, lives in the space of tradition, which proceeds life in its sanctity and in the world of symbols. This is the conservative philosophy of the tradition, according to which the old adapts with the new and the new adapts with the cultural old.
Blanchot, who with his cult work The Space of Literature, as we have already mentioned, reaffirmed the nihilistic philosophy of Nietzsche in literary discourse by merging the authorial persona into the language space and philosophy of myth, often positioning the author in comparison with the ancient authors, who have no biography, however, in his fragmentary prose first published in 1971 entitled The Madness of the Day, reaffirms his narrative voice and through the narrative in the first person gives details of identity, dignity and rejection of authority to intellectual freedom. Within this prose, a hybridization of fiction with the faction is investigated, by directing in the first person, to the other neutral and invisible, through the figure where he explains himself. Maurice Blanchot accentuates that “hiding is forbidden, it is an offence”:
I reduced myself to them. The whole of me passed in full view before them, and when at last nothing was present but my perfect nothingness and there was nothing more to see, they ceased to see me too. Very irritated, they stood up and cried out, “All right, where are you? Where are you hiding? Hiding is forbidden, it is an offense”. (Blanchot 1981: 14)
It is interesting to observe Blanchot’s rejection of hiding when his biographies show that this philosopher spent almost his entire life on the immanence of loneliness and had some rejections of photography. Can fiction mixed with faction give us the simulacra of Blanchot’s persona, who, at the last stage of his life, had been involved in intellectual rejections of military intervention in Iraq.1 Although he signed everything he wrote, Blanchot permanently denied the history of writing, the history itself. Furthermore, American researcher Leslie Hill qualifies Blanchot’s work as a change of epoch. He writes that “the change of epoch in Blanchot, if such exists, is in this sense anything but an end of history” (Hill 2012: 434). However, the end of history was a form of radical opinion, that similarly prompted Francis Fukuyama to proclaim the philosophy “that the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”, that seems to have been altered by the same author in his latest study Identity, where he says: “Demand for recognition of one’s identity is a master concept that unifies much of what is going on in world politics today”, denying the death of history and restoring human demand for thymos and for recognition (Fukuyama 2018: XV). Recognition seems to be the concept, which restores the immanence of love to the uniqueness, symbolism, and signs of equilibrium between identity and universality.
Meanwhile, Barthes, who was the guru of the expansion of the idea of the Death of the Author, during his fragmentary essay course, evades from the philosophy of the suspicion and the strengthening of the reader’s role. He gradually seeks the author’s presence, moreover, he loves biographies and praises the tradition, a return to the search for truth, even an easy acceptance of the intentionality of the figure-author.
In the fragmentary text The Pleasure of the Text, first published in 1973, Barthes, while retaining his beliefs on the institutional and biographical death of the author emphasizes:
The text is a fetish object, and this fetish desires me. The text chooses me, by a whole disposition of invisible screens, selective baffles: vocabulary, references, readability, etc.; and, lost in the midst of a text (not behind it, like a deus ex machina) there is always the other, the author... I desire the author: I need his figure. (Barthes 1975: 27)
As already noted, Barthes does not return anymore to the scriptable text but to the readerly text, to figure-author as a claim of existence of an instance beyond linguistic discourse. In addition, in the text of his biographies, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (1977), first published in 1975, dominates the confession and photographic message where in particular is stated his complex relationship with his mother. We may say that the mother was his moral and religious authority, two categories that were continually denied by this philosopher and semiologist. Based on his biographies we believe that this authority has existed, since Barthes did not leave her icon until his death. Likewise, regarding his relationship with tradition, in the inaugural lecture of his admission as Chair of Literary Semiology at Collège de France on January 7, 1977, Barthes emphasized: “It is my joy to encounter in this place the memory or presence of authors dear to me and who have taught me at the Collège de France” (Barthes 2007: 458). From this spiral curve of Barthes’s theoretical and philosophical opinion, we can raise the hypothesis that in addition to the operational function of the textual analysis, which this author has realized in S/Z (1975), where he has studied the hermeneutics of the codes in the prose of Honore de Balzac, the consciousness for the author implicitly dominated his structural research.
Derrida, the inaugurator and disseminator of deconstruction philosophy, before its end, in 2004, to the question of an American scholar, which is brought to us by W. J. T. Mitchell, “Is Deconstruction Dying?” – responds this way:
Yes, it’s true. Deconstruction is clearly dying. But we have to ask precisely how it is dying... Deconstruction has been dying for quite a while. The first reports of its dying came to us a long time ago, and no doubt it will continue dying for some time to come. And it seems to be dying more in some places than others. For instance, in France, deconstruction is not dying. It was declared dead long ago. But in the United States, deconstruction still seems to be dying quite a bit. (Mitchell 2007: 224)
“The Death of Deconstruction”, whether as a classic of the game of discourse, the instability of the signifiers, the nihilism and the author’s denial, the symbolism of tradition, the identity form of thymos, language arbitrariness, etc., means the death of a philosophical concept in the scientific and academic world, conceptuality that has mastered the teaching of philosophy and literature in Western universities for around half a century. Elevated so high, up to an epistemological religion without the concept of God (is known the Derridean concept for the Transcendent One), deconstruction, as the highest degree of belief in post-structuralist, consequently, postmodernist theories, in the academic world has “sought” its supporters and followers. Even, British researcher Robert Grant says:
To join this ‘alternative academy’ it was necessary, not to understand deconstruction, but merely to sign up for it. Deconstruction has approached nearest to orthodoxy in literary or para-literary disciplines, in the sense that it is still fairly imprudent even now for an academic hoping for tenure or promotion to express open hostility to it. (Grant 2003: 86)
According to this philosophy of alignment and at the same time of the denial of stabilized signifiers, it appears that the utility of literature teaching has been touched, the author has been broken as a sole ethical principal of literary interpretation, and, in the name of permanent fictionality, the search for truth as an ideal, as the primary quest for knowledge, has not been favoured, leaving room for a persistent, even contemptuous game, to canonical authors of European literature as well as to the established authors of identity literatures.
4. Rejection of “The Death of the Author”
From the initial stage of the expansion of philosophy of suspicion, especially of deconstruction, which attacked the fundamental symbols of literary tradition, the professors of cognitive and hermeneutical literary knowledge opposed this mood of oblivion and deletion, by defending inherited values as identity marks of Western culture.
From the American circle, Meyer Howard Abrams, a Harvard scholar, a professor of tradition and Norton Anthology, in the Deconstructive Angel emphasized that deconstruction defies and attacks the tradition on which it builds the theorizing (Abrams 2000: 241-253). Meanwhile, he accentuates that, without the presence of the author, any interpretation turns into misinterpretation. This rejection of author’s exclusion from the teaching of literature was supported by Eric Donald Hirsch, who, in cognitive philosophy, proves authorial intentionality and finds authorial meaning in literary text, which does not change as well as reader significance, which varies according to the competence of readers through time and space. Because, Hirsch writes:
For, once the author had been ruthlessly banished as the determiner of his text’s meaning, it very gradually appeared that no adequate principle existed for judging the validity of an interpretation. By an inner necessity the study of ‘what a text says” became the study of what it says to an individual critic (Hirsch 1967: 3).
Time proved that literary criticism became a self-sufficient library in its autonomous circle, diverting the reading and creating the myth that the true view of works can be achieved even from this distance.
Meanwhile, from the French circle, we would distinguish Antoine Compagnon, who in his ongoing studies defended authorial intentionality, even emphasizing that “to interpret a work assumes that the text represents an intentional action, that it is the product of human agency. It does not follow that we are limited to studying the intentions of the work, but that the meaning of the text is linked to the author’s intention, or we might even say that the meaning of the work is the author’s intention” (Compagnon 2004: 67).
According to Compagnon, interpreting the text without author’s presence means to end up in confusion. On this occasion, we will mention two French-born authors, Luc Ferry and Alan Renaut, who earlier emphasized the anti-humanist tendency the philosophy of subject in trial of the 1960s, which particularly damaged the explanation of works of literary classics (Ferry 1990: 15). From this irritation of the denial of the author’s authority Harold Bloom wrote the mega-study Western Canon, in which on the basis of aesthetic principles of Immanuel Kant restored confidence in the Western literary classics. Investigating the crisis that was caused by Cultural Studies, and taking Shakespeare’s example, Bloom highlights: “When our English and other literature departments shrinks to the dimensions of our current Classics departments, ceding their grosser functions to the legions of Cultural Studies, we will perhaps be able to return to the study of the inescapable, to Shakespeare and his few peers, who after all, invented all of us” (Bloom 1994: 17).
We are cognizant of the fact that when the literary text reaches canonization in the range of values of cultural heritage, hence become classical, it is neither old nor new, but a symbol of an identity culture, and consequently of universal culture. The interpretation of the text by deleting its author, either due to denial of positivism, biographism, or for the sake of formalist, structuralist, and post-structuralist criticism, constitutes an ethical violation. This violation of ethics is a denial of literature morality, since, metaphorically speaking, the created (work) cannot replace the creator (author), even when the latter knows and feels that literary creation does not resemble theological ontology or God, the only one who has the power to create ex nihilo.
This erasing tendency, fortified in the philosophy of anti-intentionality, impersonality, the denial of the subject, and the reinforcement of the deconstructionist concept “there is nothing outside the text” has harmed the canonical memory and instead of authorial responsibility has installed reading confusion, deception with ambiguous notions and de-humanizing of the reader’s relationship with literature, especially when dealing with the authors of tradition.
The notions such as “the death of classics”, “the death of the author”, “the death of history”, “the death of biography”, “the death of deconstruction”, even “the death of postmodernism”, when Linda Hutcheon, its proclaimer, says “postmodernism has come to the end” (Hutcheon 2002: 5), circulate through the class of teaching as a reformulation of a permanent nihilism, which has estranged the essential gnoseology of learning and reading of literature, the satisfaction and happiness, namely catharsis, which causes and conveys the reading of works of tradition. The myth of theorization estranged the author of tradition, the symbol of identity, touching the pillars of national peculiarity, cause and dignities, which enrich the world of literature to its universality. The universality of literature cannot be projected as uniformity, but as a balance between identity and universality, where the author plays the basic role of identification.
The student of literature, for example, cannot comprehend the humanity of literary art without the intent and ethics of Miguel de Cervantes, who with the Don Quixote continues to keep us happy. We could not be felt in poetic spleen with removing John Milton’s ethics and intent, who, with his Paradise Lost, challenges us in relation to nostalgia, the rejection of revolutions and the optimism of humanity. We understand the sense of humanity and human and national optimism in the fictional work The Maid Silja by Frans Eemil Sillanpaa, who transformed the Finnish tradition into a literary cult and granted it to the world as a love for identity. We find the ethnic Lithuanian roots in the poems of Tomas Venclova in Winter Dialogue2, who proves that ideological hegemonies tend to dismantle the uniqueness of identity, which is shaped by the symbolic voice of dead ancestors.
Diminishing tendency of the author’s persona within his works will dissolve the human essence of literary art. Seemingly, this situation, finally pushed theorist and philosopher Tzvetan Todorov, who was a worshiper of French formalism, structuralism and post-structuralism, to make a lamenting call that literature is now in danger of theorizing. In his book in a form of a manifesto which included the autobiographical elements Literature in danger, Tzvetan Todorov questions all theoretical-philosophical adventures that he had previously persistently defended, concluding that literature had experienced the tyranny of literary theories, and has been smothered by formalism, nihilism, and solipsism. As a counterweight to this, even as mea culpa, Todorov says: “Works are always created at a given moment, in heritage or in break with a literary tradition, in an aesthetic context, but also historical, political and social” (Todorov 2007: 25).
The attempt to kill the author emerges as an attempt to kill literature and its essential power: the pleasure it offers to the reader and its position in school and society.
In this paper, we have discussed the author’s influential and essential relationship with the literary text, as well as, the role of the literary critic and dubious philosophers in the overflow of tendencies to replace the first and to repudiate his presence and intentionality in his written oeuvre.
Through hermeneutic discussion of the progressive concepts of modernity and the denying concepts of post-modernity, we have developed the idea that literary discourse essentially requires the author as a normative and intentional principle in order to preserve the memory and knowledge that literature offers to us.
The tendency of author’s denial has resulted in a tendency of tradition disavowal, moreover in underestimating the literary canon. This ironical and over-theorizing attitude of the icons of banishing of the author’s intentionality has contributed on the diminishing of the pleasure of reading and the utilitarian recognition of authors who form and preserve dignity and identity of Western culture.
Based on the philosophical principles of cognition we have advocated the idea that canonical literary texts should be recognized through the posterior criticism, their placement on the time, and their reflections of our time, in which they receive new meanings but always preserve the pertinent meanings of their authors. Their revisiting with the historicist and deconstructive-ironic tendencies does not seem to be literary utility, but retrospective illusion and the attribution of an aprioristic criticism.
The universality of the symbols of canon, tradition, and western culture must be subject to the philosophical process of saving of the heritage of the author, knowing his role as a recreator in our timeless present of the theatre of memory. Banishing tendencies of his intrinsic role in the mysteries and curiosities of written literature, without any doubt, will result in mea culpa.
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1 Blanchot’s attitude towards the war in Iraq is known from November 7, 2002, when in Paris, along with many French intellectuals, he signed the petition titled “Not in Our Names” as the philosophical rejection of neutrality of the two forms of death, historical death and an act of pure death according to his philosophy.
2 Poetic work Winter Dialogue by Tomas Venclova was translated into English by Diana Senechal with foreword by Joseph Brodsky. It has one valuable conversation between the author and Czesław Miłosz. This poetry work is also published in Albanian under the title Dialog në dimër: Poezi të zgjedhura, Aleph, Tirana, 2005.