Thought Bite #5 R.F.

Tripp I have a simple idea concerning whether “the author” (the flesh and blood writer of a text) should be given some credence, be politely ignored, or vilified as an evil genius bent on controlling the reading process (for this, see Roland Barthes’ “Death of the Author” for a seminal article on all this). Personally, I prefer not to know too much about an author prior to reading. This of course is impossible in some instances, but still I like to keep it at a minimum. I especially try to avoid photographs of an author, for reasons I can’t fully explain––maybe because I spent my childhood listening to radio melodrama (I’m that old), where you would have to build scenes in your head from just the dialogue. Of course this happens in reading dialogue, but normally there is exposition (“show don’t tell”) to flesh out dialogue in a written text. Anyway, I think the author should be given her due––at least a nod, maybe after a first reading–– this way one might experience something of an ‘open’ reading, because it is true (my experience) that becoming familiar with the author’s life, say, or comments by the author about the text can influence a reading. If you want to know more about how this death-of-the-author business got started in the first place, go online and listen to lecture 2 of Paul Fry’s Open Yale Lecture series “Literary Theory”––or you can download it on your smart phone.

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