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From: Jeremy Crampton <jcrampto@osf1.gmu.edu>
Subject: (urth) Re:  Readerly/writerly
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 12:49:13 


Thanks for the interesting comments. As I indicated in my original post
these are some potentially interesting ideas but I'm not sure how to apply
them. Your input goes a long way to helping.

Jim's thoughts about readers *wanting* to be dominated seems right (and the
S+M metaphor is cool, if perhaps something already covered by somebody like
Camille Paglia or Judith Butler). But domination is usually accounted an
undesirable condition. As Orwell knew, look at how he drew a negative
picture of the proles complicit in their own domination in _Nineteen

This was perhaps then one of the radical implications of Foucault, that he
offered a chance to challenge and resist the power structure of the text,
or better, of discourse (by identifying its breaks and disunities, eg of
the subject or the author).

>new pluralist 'writerly' forms which they envisage. While I'm unsure 
>about Barthes, I think its a disservice to read Foucault like this - yes 
>there is an almost utopian desire to liberate texts from the old 
>strictures but there is also an acceptance that these will merely be 
>replaced by new and different kinds of strictures ('tho hopefully 
>more honest).

What's wrong with this? I think for F. the point was to resist or to
transgress, not to free oneself up from power. 
He did distinguish between "power" and "domination".. power was always
accompanied by resistance, especially at the sharp end where it was being
applied, but as for domination, well not much room for resistance as a
slave or a woman in an abusive relationship (his examples). But perhaps
even there...

>> What poststructuralists decry as the "authority" of a text is precisely
>> what most of us want most of the time.

>I always thought that the point was not to accept authority blindly, but 
>to analyse the way authority is constructed before accepting it (even 
>if only tentatively. Post-structuralism does not necessarily condemn 
>the notion of authority, merely contextualise it, and accept that a text 
>(I prefer the concrete term 'book' to this work/text confusion - it 
>allows covers, introductions, footnotes, and artwork to have an 
>authority that co-exists with the linguistic units) may have multiple 
>authorities. What is the authority of Severian for example? Does he 
>possess the same kind of narrative authority that Gene Wolfe does?

I prefer Foucault's term "discourse" which is somewhat above the level of
the statement, though you have to plough through _Archaeology of knowledge_
to work this out (one of his last structuralist books thank goodness).
Discourse is what is formed by the archive, the set of rules which
determine what can be said, remembered, appropriated, re-used or forgotten.
Anyway, the point is that there is authority in discourse, it frames simply
what can be said or how it is said. His examples are madness, criminality,
and sexuality.

By the way the upper quote is from Jim not me.

>> > According to Foucault ("The death of the author," 1969):
>Barthes wrote 'Death'. Foucault wrote the far more interesting 'What 
>is an author?'

Sorry, sorry! 

>structuralist theory was always the weakest point. What intrigues 
>me is the scope for questioning concepts of authorship and 
>authority which are too often taken for granted. That doesn't mean 
>we must erase their existence, merely understand the way we read 
>the 'new Gene Wolfe novel' in different ways to the 'new Jeffery 
>Archer novel', and the way the presence of the author has a bearing 
>on our reading of their narrators.

This seems useful.

There is a great Foucault discussion list:

Thanks again Jonathan. If you're in Chester next week I'll buy you a pint!
I'll be home for the holidays.
Jeremy W. Crampton		         http://geog.gmu.edu    jcrampto@gmu.edu
Dept. of Geography & Earth Science
[MS 1E2]				’Tis true; there’s magic in the web of it.
George Mason University					--Othello (III.iv.69)
Fairfax, Va 22030

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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