On authorship - Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes

The work of an author



"What... is the strange unit designated by the term, work?" (Foucault, 118)

"... the author is a man who labors, who works up his utterance (even if he is inspired) and functionally absorbs himself in this labor, this work..." (Barthes, 186)

Taking the reverse of Barthes statement, we can answer Foucault's question by defining work as that which causes the author to perform a function, as opposed to an activity. This function should be one which "absorbs" the author and causes him to lose his individuality.

The work a author creates should also contain language which is "intrasensitive by choice and by labor" and "inaugurates an ambiguity, even if it appears to be peremptory, that it offers itself, paradoxically, as a monumental silence to be deciphered" (Barthes, 190).

Shopping lists and laundry bills, therefore, should not be considered works (ref. Foucault, 118).


Diary extract