Foucault, like Barthes, examines the idea of the author. In "What is an Author," Foucault outlines the roles and functions of an author. He says that "The function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a society" (Foucault, 124).
Another function of the author is appropriation. Presence of an author's name gives a certain meaning to a text. For example, the name 'Shakespeare' prompts certain expectations for a reader. One may think know that Shakespeare is considered to be one of the greatest poets in the English langauge. Thus, when a play such as Titus Andronicus, a vastly inferior play, is examined, one tends to disbelieve that Shakespeare wrote the play. Many critics indeed support the notion that Shakespeare did not write Titus.
Foucault summarizes what he sees as the four main characteristics of the author function as follows:
"The 'author-function' is tied to legal and institutional systems that circumscribe, determine, and articulate the realm of discourses; it does not operate in a uniform manner in all discourses, at all times, and in any given culture; it is not defined by the spontaneus attribution of a text to its creator, but through a series of precise and complex procedures; it does refer, purely and simply, to an individual insofar as it simultaneously gives rise to a variety of egos and to a series of subjective positions that individuals of any class may come to occupy" (Foucault, 130-31).