Return to Foucault’s “What is an Author” – Gordon Hull at New APPS
I’m teaching a Foucault seminar this term, and one of the things I’m trying to do is get better on the doxography of his essays. That led me to a discovery about “What is an Author” that I’m going to share on the (hopefully not hubristic) assumption that other folks didn’t know it either. The essay has been of interest to me for a while, largely because of my work on intellectual property. There, the link between copyright and the juridico-political function of authorship Foucault identifies is fairly clear, and has been ably explored in the context of trademark by Laura Heymann.
What I didn’t know is that Foucault’s essay was originally presented as a seminar (Feb. 1969) – with responses from the likes of Lucien Goldmann and Lacan. The version translated into English and that makes its way into the Rabinow-edited Foucault Reader and subsequent English editions is based on a revised version that Foucault gave the following year in Buffalo. As a result, we don’t get the commentaries. The version in Dits & Écrits I (#69) is thus worth a look for a few reasons. [continues here]
I posted about this text by Foucault in 2017, where I provide a list of the variant texts in French and English translation – The textual issues around Foucault’s ‘What is an Author?’ There is no complete English translation of the text, but there are other versions than the one in The Foucault Reader, including one which translates some, but not all, of the discussion.
None of this takes away from Hull’s interesting discussion, but it might provide some useful detail and references for those who want to go beyond the partial translation.