The Deaths of the Author

Reading and Writing in Time

The Deaths of the Author

Book Pages: 184 Illustrations: Published: August 2011

Author: Jane Gallop

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

For thirty years the "death of the author" has been a familiar poststructuralist slogan in literary theory, widely understood and much debated as a dismissal of the author, a declaration of the writer's irrelevance to the readers experience. In this concise book, Jane Gallop revitalizes this hackneyed concept by considering not only the abstract theoretical death of the author but also the writer's literal death, as well as other authorial "deaths" such as obsolescence. Through bravura close readings of the influential literary theorists Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, she shows that the death of the author is best understood as a relation to temporality, not only for the reader but especially for the writer. Gallop does not just approach the death of the author from the reader's perspective; she also reflects at length on how impending death haunts the writer. By connecting an author's theoretical, literal, and metaphoric deaths, she enables us to take a fuller measure of the moving and unsettling effects of the deaths of the author on readers and writers, and on reading and writing.


“. . . Gallop can be highly perceptive when focusing closely on texts, in these readings of Barthes, Derrida (especially The Work of Mourning), Sedgwick, and Spivak.” — Steven Poole, The Guardian

“Gallop turns the poststructuralist move of decentering the author to fresh account here, going beyond the necessary evacuation of subjective privilege to a moving engagement with the afterlife of the author as a haunting presence whose shadow still fills us with desire.” — Patrick Pritchett, Writing the Messianic blog

“Gallop’s discussion of her four chosen authors—Barthes, Derrida, Sedgwick, and Spivak—comes together in a persuasively connected fashion. The clear structure and progression of argument goes in tandem with a remarkably clear, jargon-free expression, which will no doubt extend the book’s readership beyond the expert audience. As a whole, this study is a valuable showcase for the practice of close reading.” — Kathrin Yacavone, Modern Language Review

“Gallop has provided us with a profound look at what it means to read and write in the face of human mortality. Highly recommended for students of literature and literary theory.” — Emily Manuel, Global Comment

“Gallop meticulously yet gracefully analyzes the complicated relationship between a devoted reader and the author that inspires them. . . . Gallop’s impressive close reading breathes new life into these dead authors and fittingly pays tribute to the man who killed the author and liberated the reader by practicing what he preached at a level of insight and clarity on par with Barthes himself.” — Chase Dimock, Lambda Literary Review

“Gallop’s close readings in and around queer lives, the 'fragments' that the 'dead-but-still-going' author leaves behind, elegantly invite us into the traces, ghostings and shadows that viscerally render the imbrication between the theoretical and the personal — a dynamic often disregarded in many academic circles. By writing Barthes (then Derrida, then Sedgwick, then Owens, then Lynch, and then Spivak), [she] breathes life into the future-perfect corpses that are never really dead as such in the first place. The Deaths of the Author conjures a corps de ballet in which Gallop cinematically choreographs shadows and bodies so that in their performance they commingle. I am thankful for the invitation to dance.” — David A. Gerstner, Reviews in Cultural Theory

“Jane Gallop is no doubt one of the best readers of her generation, but with The Deaths of the Author she proves that her writing is unprecedented: sharp, brisk, with a great sense of rhythm, utterly sophisticated and yet perfectly clear, from the very first till the very last sentence.” — Jan Baeten, Leonardo Reviews

“Jane Gallop revitalises debates on the ‘death of the author’ theory by examining the effect the theory has on the author of a landmark work. She uses readings of influential literary theorists Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak to connect an author’s theoretical, literal and metaphoric deaths to discuss the idea.” — Times Higher Education

“Always lively and lucid, Jane Gallop has produced another remarkable book. Taken literally, the familiar notion of ‘the death of the author’ acquires a wholly different resonance in these essays on major contemporary theorists, who reflect on the temporality of writing and the effects of deaths of authors.” — Jonathan Culler, Cornell University

“Jane Gallop is one of the small handful of critics who are keeping close reading alive. With this volume, she illuminates the stakes in paying such careful and loving attention to the words by which writers are turned, and turn themselves, into authors: stakes made visible on the relational field joining reader and author in an intimate bond that’s desirous, companionate, aggressive, indecent, sustaining, disturbing, unstable, and, when elaborated by a critic and thinker as gifted and incisive as Jane Gallop, also endlessly productive.” — Lee Edelman, author of No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jane Gallop is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She is the author of several books, including Living with His Camera, Anecdotal Theory, and Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

Part I. The Friendly Return of the Author 27

1. The Author Is Dead but I Desire the Author 29

2. The Ethics of Indecency 55

Part II. If I Were a Writer and Dead 85

3. The Queer Temporality of Writing 87

4. The Persistent and Vanishing Present 115

Notes 145

Works Cited 163

Index 167
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5081-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5063-7
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