What Matters Who Writes? What Matters Who Responds?

Andrea Lunsford, Rebecca Rickly, Michael Salvo, and Susan West

Perhaps more than any other theorist, Michel Foucault illustrated the constructed nature of the author figure, arguing that we should speak of "author functions" rather than authors and that we should recognize these author functions as part of larger discourses working to shape and create meaning. What Foucault means is easily demonstrated with an example that is very close to home: though I may write a textbook, the "author function" is held by the publisher, the entity that holds copyright and hence controls the work's distribution. The larger discursive forces of publishing and copyright law, in this case, shape and create the meanings I as a "writer" am allowed to inhabit. At the conclusion of his essay, "What is an Author?" Foucault pauses, in fact, to ponder some questions very much like those with which I have begun, suggesting that "who really spoke?" is more or less beside the point--that it doesn't matter who really spoke. Instead, Foucault suggests, we should be asking very different questions: "What are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it. . . " (160). In composition studies, the "who writes?" question has also been broached, most noticeably--though I think in almost all cases only superficially--in the field's attention to collaborative learning and to collaborative writing practices. Over a dozen years ago, Lisa Ede and I asked "Why Write . . . Together?"--and we went on to argue that the romantic concept of authorship as singular and originary-- as the act of an autonomous and stable and uniquely creative self--effectively hid from view the largely collaborative and highly dispersed nature of most creative endeavors, from art, drama, literature, and film to scientific experimentation and discovery. In Singular Texts, Plural Authors  we explored further the deeply collaborative nature of most professional writing, and we noted some of the problems attendant on continuing to try to fit the square peg of multiple--and multiplicitous--creativity into the round hole of Romantic, singular "authorship."
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Postmodern (un)grounding * Collaboration * Copy(w)right/Ownership * Possible Futures

Title Page * Conclusions