What Matters Who Writes? What Matters Who Responds?

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

Many of you are familiar, I am sure, with much other work on collaboration that implicitly challenges traditional views of "who writes?" (I say that the challenges are implicit because, to my regret, much composition work on collaboration has merely reified traditional notions of authorship, viewing the group as simply an aggregate of radically individual autonomous selves.) At the conclusion of his "Death of the Author" essay, Barthes predicts that this "death"-- highly exaggerated, as it turns out some 27 years later--would be accompanied by the "birth of the reader." "What matters who responds?," Barthes suggests, would take on greater significance. And indeed, the entire reader response movement and, more recently, the focus on reception theory elaborate on this question, exploring the ways in which readers construct meaning and the ways in which particular texts are read, understood, and deployed in particular times and in particular places. In composition studies also, much important work has been done on how students experience reading and responding, and toward arguing that we should study the strategies and ways of student readers just as intensely as those of "experts" or professionals. Less work has been done, however, on the teacher as reader/responder. Only recently, in fact, have we had any detailed studies of this kind, most of them growing out of ethnographic investigations into classroom behaviors and scenes. Foucault's work, however, once again illuminates the ways in which the reader or responder--whether student, teacher, critic, or citizen--is as much a construct as the "author" we spoke of earlier. One can easily induce a set of "reader functions" to complement the author functions Foucault posits.
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Postmodern (un)grounding * Collaboration * Copy(w)right/Ownership * Possible Futures

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