Reading As If To Live

Tess Goodman | 6 March 2017

In Fun Home, Alison Bechdel describes learning the word “lesbian” from the dictionary at age thirteen (74). As she ages, she finds one book after another that explore this word, leading eventually to two realizations: one, that she “could actually look up homosexuality in the card catalog,” and two, that she herself is a lesbian (75). For her, the former discovery is the catalyst for the latter, which she calls a “revelation not of the flesh, but of the mind” (74). Her reading reveals a larger world, bringing her into touch with herself.

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The Problem of the Alive Author

14th November 2016 | Margaret Graton.

The reader can only exist once the author dies – this is an idea famously explained by Roland Barthes. Traditionally, once a book was published, it seemed complete, reprints and subsequent editions aside; it was out of the author’s hands and straight into the reader’s. Authors today simultaneously have more and less control over their works than ever thanks to the utilization of digital spaces like blogs, news outlets, and social media. As an example, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe has grown in many ways, and Rowling has faced both support and backlash from fans due to the frequent and very public additions and changes she’s made. Meanwhile, J.R.R. Tolkien’s texts, published both as books and letters, have quietly become canon with approving readers. This leads me to wonder…is there a problem with the alive author?

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Authors, Readers and the Ethics of Imagination

May 16, 2016 | Sarah Stewart.

Roland Barthes’ influential essay ‘The Death of the Author’ presents a compelling argument against prevailing attitudes about literature that Barthes sees as ‘tyrannically centred on the author’ (260). Instead of attributing definitive meaning to what the author intended, Barthes advocates for the unity of a text being what any given reader makes of it. This reader brings their own experience and identity (whatever that might be) to author their own interpretation of the words on the page. Barthes’ liberation of text and reader by locating the ‘true place of writing’ (262) solely in the latter opens up the possibilities of meaning in texts which, he argues, should not be fixedly possessed by the person of the author.

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