For a change, let’s just kill the Author!
I have not gone insane. Hard to believe yet you will have to, here.
Two weeks ago, post Thanksgiving, I convinced my family we have to treat ourselves with the new Jake Gyllenhaal movie. A Jake Gyllenhaal psycho thriller. Now that’s something we all should be doing, Thanksgiving or not, given the reputation Gyllenhaal holds with ‘Donnie Darko,’ ‘Nightcrawler,’ ‘Prisoners,’ ‘Enemy,’ and ‘Zodiac.’ This one’s called ‘Nocturnal Animals.’
I went to the theatre with just that much information: the title, genre, and one star. Nothing more. I was ‘free’; I didn’t have to know who was who, and figure out why they did what they did… the director’s other movies, the actor’s history (except for I am quite well-versed on Gyllenhaal’s movie history), etc.
Before reading beyond this point I would suggest that you jot the following down on a piece of paper and base it (in your mind) for all what you read after this: This film is about an author, one who is invisible but dominant.
Earlier this semester (stay with me; reminder: semester ends soon) for my Introductory to Literary Studies with Professor Jessica Yood, I read an article that proposed I let the Author die, “for the good reason that writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin.” The proposal comes from a French literary theorist by the name of Roland Barthes. “The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author,” he concludes in his translated (from French) 1967 essay, ‘The Death of the Author.’
What he suggests, in my words: “Don’t worry about the history and intentions of the Author; let the text be text; don’t be too nosey a reader… When writing, don’t let yourself walk in; let the characters be their own selves; don’t be too self-centered a writer… Kill the Author; birth a reader, who will read the text for the text… Kill the Authority: a text is a text, that is it.”
In his words: “Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing.”
I came out of the theatre. Now I love Jake Gyllenhaal — if that was too difficult to figure out. But I came out praising two different things especially for how they stuck to me: the directorial choice of what color curtain to put (of even just putting a curtain in the first place), and the haunting music (abundance of it).
I remember mentioning that to my beloved family in the car on our way back home.
“The director’s Tom Ford, a fashion design,” one of them said.
“The music composer is Abel Korzeniowski. He composed music for the show, ‘Penny Dreadful,’” said the other.
These “Of course” moments, I tell you!
I went back home, and looked these geniuses up. I was tempted to know why it was so logical that a director with a background of fashion designing would choose to put beautiful clothing on-screen. Was it logical? Was I looking into things a bit much? And forgetting that I am not giving the due love (“authority”) that it well deserves. [Please do yourself a huge favor and watch ‘Nocturnal Animals.’]
Somewhere Roland Barthes must be angry at my nosey behavior.
And I do apologize.
But I have something to say here. I am also interested in hearing what your feelings on killing the author are.
For a good while, I was looking at the movie for its own goodness (Gyllenhaal added). And all those praises went to “Of course” the moment I connected them to the history and businesses of the geniuses mentioned earlier.
Not defending my apology BUT how do you escape the temptation of finding out why theses geniuses made the choices they did and if they have in the past worked on more or less wonderful art pieces?!
As a writer (in the process), I want the readers not to try tracking down why I made the choices I made. Like you don’t have to be a criminal to write about crime, so why let readers deduce that?
As a reader, I cannot help myself.
Where are you on this?
Should we kill the Author?
Should we tame the Authorial Animals?
~ Hardik Yadav
‘The Death of the Author,’ Roland Barthes, http://artsites.ucsc.edu/faculty/Gustafson/FILM%20162.W10/readings/barthes.death.pdf
‘Nocturnal Animals,’ directed by Tom Ford: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4550098/