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Authorial Identity from Folk to Modern Literature
By: Editor | 30-12-2012
Total Views:418

It was a sunny Sunday morning here in Perth, Western Australia and a part of my heart was insisting on me to go out with friends, but, a pending university assignment was a hurdle in fulfillment of my outing plans. I was supposed to write a blog about origin and evolution of authorship in literature, so, I forced my mind to think about the topic.
The brain storming for a blog about authorial identity led me back to my child hood days and I recalled the every night stories, told by my mother and grandmother. ’Those stories were so strange. They had different types of omnipotent characters and there was no end to possibilities. Some of those characters could even talk to the trees because the narrating authors claimed that even the plants were able to chat with the people in the ancient ages.
I never challenged those claims and never doubted the super natural abilities of the heroes and villains of the anecdotes. In those days, I was not familiar with the concept of the author but later on I came to know that, actually, no authorial identity was associated with those stories. Is it universal wisdom? Referring to the question raised by Barthes about this type of literature, I would say yes; these stories had their origin in the societal wisdom of my people.
In fact, the narrators have every right to prolong or shorten these stories at their own will and in case of mothers; it depends on the mood of the sleeping child. They have the freedom to add favorite characters of their children or delete the ones which they considered frightening for their kids. This is how, I suppose, the folk literature flourished in all the languages of the world.
Similar is the case of folk songs. I vividly remember that in my ancestral village, local singers used to sing the folk songs, with necessary alterations, suitable to the occasion. They were free to add names or stanzas to the songs. No question of authorial identity existed in any mind so; everyone had full property rights on folk literature. This may be because of the fact that the songs were invented before the emergence of “Human person” of Barthes which in his words was the epitome and culmination of capitalist ideology or we can say, before the privileged moment of individualization in the history of ideas. According to Barthes it is capitalist ideology that attaches the greatest importance to the ‘person’ of the author.
I explored literature to find answers to questions like what an author is or who is an author, I came across a diverse range of interesting answers. French philosopher and literary critic, Mitchel Foucault observes that “an author’s name performs more than an indicative function: “It is more than a gesture, a finger pointed at someone; it is, to a certain extent, the equivalent of a description”. Ronald Barthes in his essay death of an author provides some really thought provoking arguments.

He basically, discusses the question that who controls authorial identity: the author, the reader or the publisher? He attaches greater importance to the role of the reader.” It is justifiable to say that the end user of the ‘creation’ holds power over it and over the author who created it”. On the other hand some theorists hold that in these days social media is undermining the role of author, but, differing to them , I would argue that social media is playing an effective role in author marketing. More than one million people have liked the Face Book page of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. The blogs and web pages of the famous authors are being visited by millions of people all around the world.
So, despite the changes in marketing practices and role of publisher and reader the relevancy of author is increasing each day. The name of the author is one of the most effective marketing tools to sell his/her works and this economic relevancy is the lifeline of author. Long live author as long as your name is profitable to the publishers.

(courtesy : TheNews)


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