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The Death and Return of the Author

Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida

Seán Burke

Edition: 3


For the late twentieth century, the death of the author assumed a significance analogous to the death of God one hundred years previously. In this now classic study, Seán Burke both provides the first detailed explanation of anti-authorialism and shows how, even taken on its own terms, the attempt to abolish the author is philosophically untenable. Rather than developing a traditionally humanist defence, Burke effectively out-theorises theory through rigorous readings which demonstrate that the concept of the author remained profoundly active even and especially as its disappearance was being articulated. The question of the author, he argues, is not a question within theory but the question of theory.

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Preface to Third Edition: The 'Life Death' of the Author
Preface to the Second Edition
Prologue: The Deaths of Paul de Man
Introduction: A Prehistory of the Death of the Author
1. The Birth of the Reader: Authorship and Apotheosis
From Work to Life
The 'Founders of Languages'
Mimesis and the Author
2. The Author and the Death of Man: Cogito and the Birth of Man
The Founder of Futurity
What (and Who) is an Author?
Allegories of Misreading
Transcendental Lures: LAcan and the Mastery of Language
3. Misread Intentions: Authors of Absence
A History of Silence
Doubling the Text: Intention and its Other
The Myth of Writing
Reading and (Self-) Writing
Conclusion: Critic and Author: Critic and Author?
Misreceptions: Phenomenology into Deconstruction
The Ghost in the Machine: Authorial Inscription and the Limits of Theory
Epilogue: Technology and the Politics of Reading
'Half Dust, Half Deity': The Middle Way of Situated Authorship
Appendix 1: The Biographical Imperative
Appendix 2: The Author as Reader

About the Author

Seán Burke worked in the Department of English Studies at the University of Durham for thirteen years, and has now retired. His academic publications include The Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida (3rd edn, 2008), Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern: A Reader (1995) and The Ethics of Writing: Authorship and Legacy in Plato and Nietzsche (2008). His first novel, Deadwater (2002) has been published in France as Au bout des docks (2007). He is currently researching a study of discursive ethics in Plato, Levinas and Derrida.


Thanks largely to Burke, 'Author Studies' is now legitimate in literary academia...truly brilliant.
- Writing in Education