English 4323.X2 :

The Birth,
and Resurrection
of the Author

Professor: Richard Cunningham
M & W @ 2:30 - 4:00
BAC 227
Office: BAC 431
Office Hours: M, W, & F - 1:00 - 2:00

Course Description

Roland Barthes’ essay “The Death of the Author” was published in the avant garde publication, Aspen, in 1967. It was answered in Michel Foucault’s 1969 lecture “What is an Author?” Then and subsequently feminist criticism has insisted that the author is a crucially important figure in the study not just of literature but of culture and society. Seán Burke argues, in 1995’s Authorship: From Plato to Postmodernism: A Reader that "the struggles of feminism have been primarily a struggle for authorship" (Burke 1995: 145). And in 2000 Rita Felski made us aware of Barbara Christian’s position “that the academic prestige of poststructuralism, along with its notorious claims about the death of the author, is undermining the authority of literary criticism devoted to interpretations of black female writers” (Felski 2000: 195).

In his essay on the “Author” for inclusion in Lentricchia & McLaughlin’s Critical Terms for Literary Study Donald Pease argues that “the idea of authorship has a lengthy and somewhat problematic genealogy” and that “from the beginning this genealogy has been associated with that of a related figure, the individual ‘subject’” (Lentricchia 106). Pease’s argument about the birth of the author from the medieval concept of “auctor” may be problematic itself, and because of that it will offer a useful point of departure into study of the birth, death, and resurrection of the author.

In this Honours English course students will be required to read Barthe’s “The Death of the Author,” Andrew Bennett’s The Author, selections from Burke’s Authorship: From Plato to Postmodernism: A Reader, Rita Felski’s Literature after Feminism, Foucault’s “What is an Author?” Donald Hall’s Subjectivity, Pease’s essay entitled “Author,” and at least one novel to which they will apply a theory of authorship. The theory they apply might be their own, aggregated from the readings above, or it might be a theory advanced by someone else: either from the required readings or from elsewhere.


Bennett, Andrew. The Author. London: Routledge, 2005.

Burke, Seán. Authorship: From Plato to Postmodernism: A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1995.

Felski, Rita. Literature after Feminism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Hall, Donald E. Subjectivity. London: Routledge, 2004.

We will follow our own and each other's leads as we work through the term, with the result that we will read more and other material than what is listed here.

Requirements and Grading

The grading will reflect the requirements as accurately as possible.

The first requirement is for you to come to every class, having done the reading for that class. In the classroom you will actively discuss the readings, and you will propose other texts for us to read. Most such texts we will find in the books on the list of course texts, but you should also bring to the course suggestions for other works that we might benefit from reading, thinking about, discussing, and thinking about some more.

The second requirement is for you to lead the class through two of the readings. Each of these exercises will count for 10% of your grade, for a total of:

To satisfie the third requirement you will pick an author whose work interests you, and you will present your research into that author in class, then complete a paper on the same author.

Week ofMondayWednesdayIn chargeIn charge
Jan. 16 - 18 Burke Intros 3. "What is Subjectivity? and
"Classical and Pre-modern Identities," (Hall).

4. Pease, (Burke).
all 3. Cunningham
4. all
Jan. 23 – 25 1. Intro & “Death of the Author” (Bennett).

2.Felski Intro, The Uses of Literature (both).
3.“Descartes and the ‘I’” (Hall).

4. Felski Intro, Literature after Feminism.
1. Leanna
Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 1.“Authority, Ownership, Originality” (Bennett).

2. “Romantic Author,” (Bennett).
 Class cancelled due to illness. 1. Danielle
Feb. 6 - 8 1. ”Readers,” (Felski).

2. “Formalism, Feminism, Historicism” (Bennett).
3. “Slavery and Subjectivities,” (Hall).

4. “Wollstonecraft & Early Fem. Subjectivity,” (Hall).
1. Nicole
3. Leanna
4. Amy
Feb. 13 – 15 1. “Freud & the Rise of The Social Sciences,” (Hall).

2. Freud, “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming,” (Burke).
3.Foucault, “What is an author?” (Burke).

2.Barthes, “Death of the Author,” (Burke).
1. Nicole
2. Georgia
Reading Week
Feb. 27 – Mar. 1 1.“Politics of Gender & Sexuality,” (Hall).

2.”Race and Poco,” (Hall).
Paper Presentation 1. Georgia
Mar. 6 - 8 1.“Haraway & Cyborg Subjectivity,” (Hall).

2. Gilbert & Gubar, (Burke).
Paper Presentation 1. Amy
Mar. 13 - 15 1. Tomaševskij, "Lit. & Biography," (Burke).

2. “Plots,” (Felski).
Paper Presentation 1.
2. Danielle
Mar. 20 – 22 1. Foucault, “What is an author?” (Burke).

2.Barthes, “Death of the Author,” (Burke).
Paper Presentation 1.
Mar. 27 -29 1.“Authors,” (Felski).

2. “Subjectivities,” (Hall)
Paper Presentation 1.
April 3 - 5 “Values,” (Felski).

2. . . .