Reconceiving Self & Text

Radical changes in textuality produce radical changes in the author figure derived from that textuality. Lack of textual autonomy, like lack of textual centeredness, immediately reverberates through conceptions of authorship and self. Similarly, the unboundedness of the new textuality disperses the author as well. Foucault opens this side of the question when he raises what, in another context, might be a standard problem in a graduate course on the methodology of scholarship:

If we wish to publish the complete works of Nietzsche, for example, where do we draw the line? Certainly, everything must be published, but can we agree on what "everything" means? We will, of course, include everything that Nietzsche himself published, along with the drafts of his works, his plans for aphorisms, his marginalia; notations and corrections. But what if, in a notebook filled with aphorisms, we find a reference, a reminder of an appointment, an address, or a laundry bill, should this be included in his works? Why not? . . . . If some have found it convenient to bypass the individuality of the writer or his status as an author to concentrate on a work, they have failed to appreciate the equally problematic nature of the word "work" and the unity it designates. (119)

Within the context of Foucault's discussion of "the author's disappearance" (119), the illimitable plenitude of Nietzsche's oeuvre demonstrates that there's more than one way to kill an author. One can destroy (what we mean by) the author, which includes the notion of sole authorship, by removing the autonomy of text. One can also achieve the same end by de-centering text or by transforming text into a network. Finally, one can remove limits on textuality, permitting it to expand, until Nietzsche, the edifying philosopher, becomes equally the author of The Gay Science and laundry lists and other such trivia -- as indeed he was. Such illimitable plenitude has truly "transformed" the author, or at least the older conception of him, into "a victim of his own writing" (117).

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