What Is an Author?

"What Is an Author?" (French: Qu'est-ce qu'un auteur?) is a lecture on literary theory given at the Collège de France on 22 February 1969 by French philosopher, sociologist and historian Michel Foucault.[1]

The work considers the relationship between author, text, and reader; concluding that:

The author--or what I have called the "author-function"--is undoubtedly only one of the possible specifications of the subject and, considering past historical transformations, it appears that the form, the complexity, and even the existence of this function are far from immutable. We can easily imagine a culture where discourse would circulate without any need for an author. Discourses, whatever their status, for, or value, and regardless of our manner of handling them, would unfold in a pervasive anonymity.

For many, Foucault's lecture responds to Roland Barthes' essay "The Death of the Author".


  1. ^ [Bouchard, Donald F. ed., Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault (Cornell University Press, 1980), 113.]

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