On authorship - Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes

A plurality of egos



"It would be as false to seek the author in relation to the actual writer as to the fictional narrator; the "author-function" arises out of their scisson - in the division and distance of the two. One might object that this phenomenon only applies to novels or poetry, to a context of "quasi-discourse", but, in fact, all discourse that supports this "author function" is characterized by this plurality of egos." (Foucault, 129-130)

One can easily see the plurality of egos in First light - the actual "I" of the poem, the narrator cum growing bud; the author; and the actual writer. The latter two are not interchangeable, for "The author performs a function, the writer an activity." (Barthes, 186) In short, the writer is the person who welds the pen, whereas the author is the persona which provides the thoughts, the words, the style of writing. From this, we draw a key observation regarding the concept of the work of an author.

There is also a plurality of egos in the diary extract, despite it being a piece of non-fiction that is supposed to, by nature, reconcile the author and the writer as far as possible. When we look back at entries of old, we do not only look out for the activities the writer went through. Rather, we look out more for the author, whose similarity to the writer is "never fixed and undergoes considerable alteration within the course of a single book" (Foucault, 129), let alone in a matter of months and years. I suspect that the diarist would be more interested in her (the author's) method, processes and style of writing when she looks back at the entry, than the fact that she (the writer) was sitting on a train one particular morning.


Diary extract