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Revival of the Author

March 2, 2009

As I progress through my studies in English literature, I continue to change the way I think about writing and how it functions in our society. For some time, I’ve been of the belief that once a text is written the author has no say on its reception. I was not willing to follow Barthes in his essay “Death of the Author,” but I firmly believed that authorial intent had nothing to do with the piece after the word was given to the world.

Though there is doubt that authorial intent will ever play a big part in my literary analysis, I have recently become intensely fascinated by the biographies of authors.

The February 23rd issue of the New Yorker has a lengthy biographic article about the British author Ian McEwan. Daniel Zalewski’s article depicts an aging (though still very much active) author who still believes he has quality work left in him. Beyond giving descriptions of the author’s day-to-day life and work habits, Zalewski delves into the inspiration for many of his stories and doesn’t spare the reader many of the criticisms of McEwan’s work.

Another New Yorker article focusing on the biographical information about an author was released on their site yesterday. David Foster Wallace, the recently deceased author, was profiled by D.T. Max. Max works to expose Wallace’s desire to write and the difficulty of actually getting words on paper.

Having not written fiction in a few years, it is easy to forget the torment that creating another reality can bring about. Reading the biographies of authors is a way to briefly empathize with these artists.


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