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TH337 - The Author Dies Hard

Module Code: TH337
Module Name: The Author Dies Hard

Module Credits: 15

Module Description

This module takes Roland Barthes’s proclamation of the ‘Death of the Author’ as its point of departure to investigate concepts of authorial presence on various levels of text and performance from its aesthetic aspects to its political dimensions. Barthes points out that ‘the author’ is a modern invention, emerging in the late Middle ages to replace the figure of the storyteller, narrator, shaman, and gradually replacing the concept of mediation with what will become the capitalist concept of ownership and authorship. In other words, the dynamic, active, performative figure of the mediator has been replaced with a more static notion of the author foregrounding individuality, authenticity and originality as its main traits— the author as originator/ God. Starting with the historical overview of the deconstruction of the godlike authorial figure through theories of Barthes, Foucault, Russian Formalists, Meyerhold and others, the module will explore the notion of the ‘author’ as an unstable and performative figure. Text, as well as performance, consists of multiple writings and potential embodiments, ‘issuing from several cultures and entering into a dialogues with one another, into parody, into contestation; but there is only one place where this multiplicity is collected, united, and in this place is not the author […], but the reader.’(Barthes)

The aim of this module is to investigate how ‘the reader’ (as also the spectator/participant/successor) constructs ‘the author’? Why is the construction of an ‘author’ in the reception process, and even within some participatory forms, important? How is the figure of the author established and distabilised in various instances of text and performance? How and what does the authorial figure perform? How is the author constructed through imaginaries and re-imaginings, over-writings and mutations, repetitions and archiving, fictionalisations and theatricalisations? How is the authorial figure fashioned and constructed through self-referentiality and dramatic irony? How does the figure of the author appear as an intertextual and intertheatrical reference? How is the author/predecessor ghosted within texts and various kinds of performance practices? What are the ethical implications of authorial presence/ absence?

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • to demonstrate critical understanding of theories concerning the notion of the author, of concepts such as intertextuality, intertheatricality, performativity and romantic irony.
  • to analyse contemporary theatrical, perfroamtive and literary practices in the light of cultural, political, historical, and philosophical debates on the aesthetics, ethics and politics of representation, self-representation, reception and participation.
  • Students should come away from this seminar with a new set of conceptual models and analytic tools to make use of in thinking about the communication processes that unfold through artistic reception, performance and creation
  • Students will achieve these learning outcomes through close reading of primary and secondary material; seminar discussions based around prescribed texts and seminar papers on specific topics. They will also explore the materials and the questions the module sets out, through interrogation of their own creative practice. In addition, performance recordings will be used to illustrate the theatrical dimensions of the plays and other materials. Even tough this is a seminar module, the theoretical concept will occasionally be explored through workshops and practice.

Class Time and Location

TUE 1000-1200 G55 (TERM 1)


25% Portfolio (2 x 750 words) [LINK FOR ESUBMISSION]
25% Critical Review (1500 words) [LINK FOR ESUBMISSION]
50% Practical Exam