On authorship - Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes

Writing - an interplay of signs



"... the writing of our day has freed itself from the necessity of 'expression'; it only refers to itself, yet it is not restricted to the confines of interiority. On the contrary, we recognize it in its exterior deployment. This reversal transforms writing into an interplay of signs, regulated less by the content it signifies than by the very nature of the signifier. Moreover, it implies an action that is always testing the limits of its regularity, transgressing and reversing an order that it accepts and manipulates. Writing unfolds like a game that inevitably moves beyond its own rules and finally leaves them behind. Thus, the essential basis of this writing is not the exalted emotions related to the act of composition or the insertion of a subject into language. Rather, it is primarily concerned with creating an opening where the writing subject endlessly disappears." (Foucault, 116)

Signs are not limited to complex images, ideas or allusions. Rather, even the most simple words such as "arms" and "train" point us toward our perceptions of the nature of the signifiers. Therefore, it does not matter that these subjects are not further described in the poem or diary extract - we immediately have in mind the original subjects, complete with descriptions and connotations. Arms are long, flexible structures; trains represent mundane, everyday travels. Further "expression", thus, is no longer necessary in writing; the author's main concern is the ability to evoke signs which cause the reader to leave the words of the text and create his own in mind.

This lends further complexity to the text, for it opens an almost infinite realm of possibilities in an environment which is already very ambiguous to begin with.


Diary extract