Prof. Fry didn't quite connect with his audience in the way he had hoped when he began the twist at the end of Lecture 2 with "I am a Lesbian Latina," but it was nevertheless a useful lecture. I admit that I was hanging on to the sections that he started with "in other words" that promised to explain certain points. They didn't always really explain but I don't know whether this is actually an unwillingness to make bare bones of a concept or whether the concept-- so immersed in the discussion and distinctions of language-- is inexplicable. Probably the latter, but I think there is also something about being a dinosaur (in the best way) of Theory that makes one unable to describe Theory to outsiders from the inside.
So, I read the assigned passages from Barthes and Foucault. Foucault always makes me think of Discipline and Punish and the Panopticon-- which has an interesting relatedness to the suspicions talked about in this lecture in regards to the delimiting powers of the author, the emergence of the "author-function". The idea of the "death" of the author seemed to me, at first, to be part of the same notion as Wimsatt and Beardsley's Intentional Fallacy where the importance of authorial intention is removed. However--and I think that Prof. Fry's "Lesbian Latina" ending would have been more understandable had he addressed this-- Barthes begins with an significant statement that provides boundaries (can I say that?) to his argument in The Death of the Author:
As soon as a fact is narrated no longer with a view to acting directly on reality but intransitively, that is to say finally outside of any function other than that of the very practice of the symbol itself, this disconnection occurs, the voice loses its origin, the author enters into his own death, writing begins.
Perhaps I am interpreting this incorrectly, but doesn't this "vexing issue" mentioned at the end of the lecture-- posed by the individual speaker who wants to circumvent Foucault's and Barthe's arguments because they have always been oppressed-- become less of an issue when we consider that the "Lesbian Latina" is actually acting on reality? I don't know how literal one should take the mention of "reality" (she certainly isn't writing a sign that says "STOP") but she seems to have a definite goal in "articulating an identity for the purpose of achieving freedom". Does this mean that the idea of the author can be used positively (without delimitation etc. if this is even always a bad thing)?
Coming back to what I was saying before in relation to W&B, the idea of the death of the author seems to have limitations. The above quote whittles down the undefinable Literature to those texts which have no direct object in reality. In these works, the author/writer is suppressed in that he is no longer the "I" and nobody can really tell who that "I" is. The text is not a product of an individual genius, but the composite of "innumerable" outside influences. But when one removes the author in this way Barthes says that the "claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile"-- one can disentangle but there is "nothing beneath" (oh, deconstruction!).
I do like the way Barthes upholds the reader-- as the majority should-- in that "a text's unity lies not in its origin but in its destination". Too bad this sentence is followed directly by a depersonalization of the reader, as if we were already not feeling like clogs in a machine.
Foucault's What is an Author? is more expansive and though I KNOW I SHOULD I don't really want to go back over the pages to map out the argument he makes. (If I am lazy this early on...) I think Barthes more clearly explains the death of the author idea (as per his title of course) but Foucault defines the author's relationship with his text and why it is problematic, the loadedness of being an "author" and the precepts of the "author-function". I am not sure I understand entirely the concept of the author-function: "characteristic of the mode of existence, circulation, and functioning of certain discourses in society" (908) as referenced in the previous pages. Is it simply that some works have the author-function and some do not, some have the name attached to them that we can take and use skeptically as the author function? So, is it this author-function that disappears, as in Barthes DOTA? Or is the author function the result of the death of the author? The last lines seem to say the latter when Foucault says that "the author function will disappear" and will be replaced by some other limiting factor in the future.
I should probably read more carefully.