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Student Name: Ireena Kanhye Tutor: Farhad Khoyratty

1. In Search of the Author: From Paul et Virginie to Genie and Paul.

2. The Lives of the Author: From Paul et Virginie to Genie and Paul.
3. The Changing Face of the Author: From Paul et Virginie to Genie and Paul.

Entry point: The process of re-writing an earlier text changes the dynamics that exists between the tropes
of the author and the reader without necessarily at the detriment of one or the other. Instead, both can
function apparently simultaneously in a symbiosis when/if the text itself is conceived of as space of
creativity that permits re-appropriation, re-creation and re-productions of itself.
The author is a critical category that has undergone various changes that parallel its ongoing
conceptualizations. Protean by nature, the figure of the author has been understood differently over time
and under different theoretical lenses, moving from the divine, the inspired to the originary and also
crossing through a phase where its very existence was precariously balanced between a theoretical need to
do away without and to emphasize it. The continuing debate revolving around the rights of the
autonomous and genius author that emerged since the 18 th century has been perpetuated to the present day
where issues of copyright laws and analyses of plagiarism run rampant. After a brief period of purgatory
absence when the author was deemed too encumbering to be associated with the text and was thus
promptly disposed of as dead, (cf. Barthes, 1972), he re-emerged, albeit with the exact reason for his
existence still in dispute.
As Burke (2010) has succinctly pointed out in a comprehensive dissection of the works of Barthes,
Foucault and Derrida, the figure of the author is indeed an entity that cannot undergo a hurried effacement
without perpetuating a discontinuity within the process of meaning-making. While Barthes essay The
Death of the Author wishes to place the power of meaning-making into the hands of the reader rather
than the author - in a justified attempt to assuage the pitfalls of the biographical fallacy, that the reader is
the sole generator of meaning and the main occupant of the textual space is equally problematic. As the
act of re-appropriating a text for its re-writing suggests, the author is indefinably eliminated by the reader
who in turn becomes the author proper. However, what is insidiously woven into this much hoped-for
usurpation is that the act of re-creation moves from a private act of reading and the construction of
meaning to a public act of reading, meaning-making, re-writing and publishing a text that is wholly the
readers who has now been transformed into the actual author and, following the rationale of having
to excise the author of his/her own creation, a text that is now completely beyond the latters control.

Student Name: Ireena Kanhye Tutor: Farhad Khoyratty

This act serves to demonstrate two key shifts within the paradigms of the author and the reader. Firstly,
that the authors presence in a text is likened to the undesired elephant in the room poses theoretical
questions that have already been tackled since the first reported call for authoricide. Thus, for instance, it
is quite improper to cite the essay of The Death of the Author as being the work of another critic
poststructuralist or otherwise. As much as Barthes contention is a matter of allowing language to speak
for itself, as opposed to the voice of the author that drowns away the readers own perceptions of the text,
it is a case in point that to freely interpret the title of his essay can be worrying, to say the least. As
Foucault has candidly explicated, the author still exists as a functional tool within the discourse of his/her
text and this off-the-cuff rescue mission has, since, once again re-established the authorial space, even if
not within the text per se but at least in the legal domain. The elephant, after all, is still one of the
occupants of the room. Arguably, though, it may also be possible to have only the portrait of the elephant
in the guise of the authorial signature on the text. Secondly, the figures of the author and reader have
been for too long diametrically opposed as incompatible entities that necessitate the absence of one or the
other for survival. On the one hand, construing the author as source of creativity and originality
previously relegated the reader to the passive position of mere spectator to the latters ideas while, on the
other hand, emphasizing only reader-response to a piece of writing meant that the author was
categorically written off as insignificant and a hindrance to textual interpretation. At the crux of both
views, an insinuation of a power balance that seemingly tilts towards only one entity at a time is upheld.
As the re-appropriation of Genie and Paul (2012) from an 18th century pastoral and its re-writing implies,
the parallel processes of writing and reading, and conversely of reading and writing, are inherently coexistent. Rendering public and legal the private process of meaning-making permits such texts to exist
independently. The act of ridding the text of its author is actually a deferment (pace Derrida) or a
postponement of the actual process of writing since the space it creates after its absence is in fact fecund
ground for more texts to emerge from. Far from being squarely replaced by the unassuming reader who
merely draws in intext based on his/her own life experiences, this space becomes the incubator for the
very reader to be transformed into an author. Yet again, recasting existing texts into another mould further
complicates the legal understanding of the authorship of a text. Fine boundaries between slippery
concepts such as plagiarism, inspiration and creativity/originality are blurred as characters firmly secured
within certain texts are once again given liberty and life in new reproductions, even if fleetingly. This may
explain how 18th century Virginie, now modern-day Genie, amongst many other characters, comes back to
life in an island that has already undergone centuries of development and through the processes of
colonization, decolonization and eventually independence.

Student Name: Ireena Kanhye Tutor: Farhad Khoyratty

What is also at stake within such instances of reproductions is that the author defunct or almost exists
in multiple. Writing is always assumed to be carried out in a textual space by an autonomous author. A rewritten text therefore does away with this rather Romantic notion by transcending the process of creation
through time, space and even gender. Allowing language to speak for itself clears the space for the reader
to flourish and to step into the shoes of the author, no matter how much later after the initial text has been
written. The liberated text, even after its re-writing(s), is an open text (pace Eco) that allows readers not
only to freely interpret their own way through it but to bring forth legal versions of it. This shift in
author and reader roles is also noticeably prominent is other movements such as fan fiction and
adaptations of books for the purposes of film-making, for instance. In another vein, superceding the
formalist and post-structuralist analyses of the theoretical underpinnings of the author and reader, the
contemporary Genie and Paul reflects a more mature understanding of the relationship between the two
entities. As has already been pointed out earlier, the space between the two seemingly polarized tropes has
been reconfigured and re-imagined into a symbiotic relationship that does not necessarily negatively
impinge on the other. This may explain how Virginie re-emerges not only as Genie but also as Paulette in
Ghoshs Sea of Poppies, amongst others, for instance.
This later generation of author figures is yet another emerging facet of the socially constructed trope of
the author that differs, almost imperceptibly but surely, from earlier conceptualizations as the divine, the
inspired, the defunct or even the implied/inferred figures. The slippage that exists between the constructs
of the author and the reader thus permits the proliferation of texts to infinity, as a matter of fact.

Research questions:

How to theoretically conceptualize the metamorphosis that takes place when the


author becomes a reader and the reader the author?

Where does one text begin and end, and where does the re-writing begin?
What is the new trope that results of such slippage between authors-readers?
How to place the different texts against a backdrop of copyright and plagiarism

Student Name: Ireena Kanhye Tutor: Farhad Khoyratty

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Student Name: Ireena Kanhye Tutor: Farhad Khoyratty

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