Feb 032010

Funny how ideas seem to develop threads of their own. The theoretical subject is important to writers because it has an impact on ideas of self, soul, character, and society. The subject here is what we used to call the self, Descartes’ thinking self, that which is conscious (of something). More and more it is thought of as a relation and not an thing itself. That’s because it is difficult to imagine being conscious without being conscious of something. Hence consciousness (the subject) somehow resides in the object (the thing you are conscious of). I come into focus the moment you (the Other) are on the scene. This is much like what happens in a story or an essay in which characters come to life as soon as they are in action (relation, conflict) with other characters or society (or some force or rule which begins to define the subject in opposition).

“I don’t think there is actually a sovereign founding subject, a universal form of subject that one might find everywhere. I am very skeptical and very hostile towards this conception of the subject. I think on the contrary, that the subject is constituted through practices of subjection, or, in a more autonomous way, through practices of liberation, of freedom, as in Antiquity, starting of course, from a number of rules, styles and conventions that can be found in the cultural setting.”

Michel Foucault. (1996) [1984]. An Aesthetics of Existence. In Foucault Live. collected Interviews, 1961-1984. Sylvère Lotringer (Ed.). New York: Semiotext(e), p. 452. Translation modified.

In this regard, here’s a link to the famous Roland Barthes’ essay about the Death of the Author.

I got set onto this little meditation looking at Andrew Gallix’s blog. See the blogroll for the site.

I also realize we seem suddenly to be descending into Theory in a big way. Not to worry–it is a temporary fever that will pass.


  No Responses to “The Subjectless Subject and the Death of the Author”

  1. Hopefully it doesn’t pass too quickly…I’m expecting the arrival of the Eagleton book today from Amazon. Honestly, while I realize it can be distracting, I think we get so little theory talk in this program that it’s a refreshing change of pace. I imagine that many students are steeped in theory already…a good portion of my friends and classmates are teachers of literature in college and high school. Still, it seems like an important subject to address in an MFA.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.