Revolution Lullabye

February 22, 2009

Foucault, What Is an Author

Foucault, Michel. From “What Is an Author?” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP,  2000. 233-246.


Foucault shifts attention from the individual author to examining the features of texts that have authors, prioritizing discourse, language itself, instead of authors or even readers. He explains that the role of the author isn’t merely descriptive; it performs an act, an authoring act in society. Four features of the author-function are as follows: it is connected to institutional and societal issues of legal property and appropriation; it is not the same for all discourses and in all cultures and time periods; it is defined through a complex process of assigning and constructing an author by searching for coherence in style, argument, and quality over many texts; and it allows for the plurality of egos, a separation of the author, narrator, and other subjects in the text. Foucault then moves to describe a particular kind of author who arose in the nineteenth century, citing Marx and Freud as examples. They are authors of entire discourses, who produced not only their own texts but a possibility for the production of others, texts that always return to the founding discourse, never debunking it. He distinguishes between a founding act of science and a founding act of discourse. Foucault then suggests what work must be done next: creating a typology of discourse through analyzing the relationships of between an author and a text and investigating the role of subjects and authors as functions of discourse, not existing outside of it.


Quotable Quotes


Marx, Freud:  “They cleared a space for the introduction of elements other than their own, which, nevertheless, remain within the field of discourse they initiated” (241).


“The initiation of a discourse practice is heterogeneous to its ulterior transformations” It “overshadows and is necessarily detached from its later developments and transformations” (242).


“The subject (and its substitutes) must be stripped of its creative role  and analysed as a complex and variable function of discourse.” (245)


“We can say in our culture, the name of an author is a variable that accompanies only certain texts to the exclusion of others: a private letter may have a signatory, but it does not have an author; a contract can have an underwriter, but not an author; and, similarily,  an anonymous poster attached to a wall may have a writer, but he cannot be an author. In this sense, the function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses in society” (235).


Notable Notes


Shifts the focus from author to text, from discourse and its functions.


Labor-intensive process of assigning an author to a body of work. We believe that the work of an author must be homogenous: there must be unity in its quality, arguments, style, historical place and context. Contradictions must be solved – there can’t be any inherent complications unless they can be explained away.


The name of an author functions as a classification, creates relationships between texts and gives text and discourse a sort of permanence in society  (235)



February 20, 2009

Robillard, Young Scholars Affecting Composition

Robillard, Amy E. “Young Scholars Affecting Composition: A Challenge to Disciplinary Citation Practices.” College English 68:3 (January 2006) 253-270.

With the publication of an all-undergraduate research and scholarship journal in composition (Young Scholars in Writing), composition has changed (whether scholars have noticed it or not) in two distinctive ways. First, that students can publish in the field has marked a shift from treating writing as a verb, a pedagogical focus (how does one learn how to write) to treating writing as a noun, a more objectified, researched scholarship focus (what is writing and should it be studied.) Second, student scholarship, scholarship that compositionists can take up, argue with, and use in their own scholarship, creates a contradiction in the ways we think about students and how we cite them. It is common practice to protect students in our scholarship by assigning them first-name pseudonyms, but now that they do contribute to the knowledge of our field (are not just products of our pedagogy), we need to consider both the legal and, more importantly, affective functions of citation. How we choose to cite student writing and student work in our own scholarship affects how we think of them – as authors or as passive products of our pedagogy.

Quotable Quotes

“To analyze student writing for what it demonstrates about a particular pedagogy – this is an authorizing move in the discourse of composition studies, perhaps the authorizing move.” (256).

“Citation practices vary, too, according to the status of the person being cited” (262).

“To cite Sahra Ahmed or Silas Kulkarni or Alicia Brazeau is to align oneself with students, to forward the argument that students contribute to the knowledge of composition studies as more than examples of particular pedagogies. To cite students is to forward the argument that writing as a mode of learning (Emig) is a dialogic process; teachers teach students to write, but students, in their writing, teach teachers about more than the results of particular pedagogies” (263).

“To name is to control. To withhold a student’s name is a form of that control” (268).

Notable Notes

Connors and Howard – citations practices

categories for functions of citation for readers, authors, and authors who will be cited (258)

categories for functions of citation of students on both students and composition scholars (266)

we need to teach students about the affective aspects of citation practices

legitimate relationship to students’ work

deep acting

February 15, 2009

Randall, Pragmatic Plagiarism

Randall, Marilyn. Pragmatic Plagiarism: Authorship, Profit, and Power. Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2001.

Plagiarism is not a textual feature; rather, plagiarism is identified, named, and made an accusation by the reader, who must interpret the author’s intentions based on the text itself, which may not give clues to the author’s motivations. Plagiarism is also pragmatic because it is a source of power: profit (economic), imperial (conquest and colonialism), and guerilla (subversive, political, and revolutionary.) Randall focuses exclusively on historical and contemporary cases of literary plagiarism suspicion and accusation, investigating (through her study of the role of the reader and the power motivations for plagiarism) why some authors are accused of the crime of plagiarism and others are praised as artists and genius authors. She points out that textual ownership (manifest through copyright law) is a far more recent phenomenon  than textual authorship (which forms the ethical foundation of plagiarism, imitation, and appropriation, and was written about in ancient times.)

Quotable Quotes

Plagiarism “is not an immenent feature of texts, but rather the result of judgments involving, first of all, the presence of some kind of textual repetition, but also, and perhaps more important, a conjunction of social, political, aesthetic, and cultural norms and presuppositions that motivate accusations or disculpations, elevating some potential plagiarisms to the level of great works of art, while censuring others and condemning the perpetrators to ignominy” (5).

Plagiarism and copyright are two different histories, invoking “two different realms – the deontic and the judicial” (76).

“Plagiarism is a judgment imposed upon texts” (xi) – she looks at the judgments, not the texts.

Notable Notes

Book Outline
Part 1: relationship between plagiarism and authorship; ancient and medieval notions of authority, authenticity, and originality; plagiarism is about identity; development of authors as originators and then owners of discourse.
Part 2: the importance of the reader in “naming, compiling, and criticizing either plagiarism or its critics” (xii)
Part 3: profit, imperial, and guerilla plagiarism – plagiarism as power
Conclusion: the digital age is questioning ideas of authorship and ownership, but the death of authorship would mean the death of plagiarism, and accusations against plagiarism aren’t going to cease

Plagiarism is unethical for two reasons: form of stealing (property) and form of fraud (authorship)

Plagiarism is a crime against authors; copyright infringement is a crime against owners (268)

Uses Bourdieu, Montainge

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