The Phantom of the Author: Literary Analysis Reconsidered

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dc.contributor.advisor Lanser, Susan Rourke, Lisa 2014-05-21T20:26:36Z 2014-05-21T20:26:36Z 2014
dc.description.abstract This project argues that authorial knowledge matters a great deal to literary critics. Such a claim contradicts conventional thinking about the role of the historical author in literary analysis: As Hans Harold-Muller and Tom Kindt observe in The Implied Author: Concept and Controversy, from the late nineteenth century and through much of the twentieth century, “Interest in the author, his biography, and what he intended to express was dismissed as biographism or psychologism and banished from literary theory.” To compare such dictums to critical practice, this project undertook a close study of over 200 critical essays and ten prominent scholarly books about novels by Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. Chapters 1-3 explore the ways that critics “access” the historical author. The first chapter analyzes how critics use biographies and the author’s private writings in their readings of novels by Austen and Hardy. The second chapter examines the manner and extent to which critics make assertions of authorial intention in interpretation. And the third chapter explores the ways in which critics infer authors’ values and beliefs from their novels. Through close analysis of my findings, the dissertation makes three key claims: 1) critics often rely on biographical sources to support their readings, especially when those sources are authoritative, substantive and plentiful; 2) when biographical sources are relatively scarce, critics tend to make central to their readings both claims of authorial intention and recourse to authorial beliefs inferred from the novels themselves; and, 3) distinctions between different author forms, such as implied and historical authors, may not be important for interpretive purposes because it does not seem to matter to interpretive outcomes whether one or several novels are used or whether biographical sources are added. The fourth chapter synthesizes the data from the first three chapters as the basis for exploring why critics might be so invested in knowledge of authors despite past dictums against relying on such knowledge in textual analysis. Using concepts from bio-cultural approaches and theories of value, the dissertation concludes that authorial knowledge—even when it is tangential or trivial—adds to the perceived value of literary analysis.
dc.description.sponsorship Brandeis University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language English
dc.language.iso eng
dc.publisher Brandeis University
dc.relation.ispartofseries Brandeis University Theses and Dissertations
dc.rights Copyright by Lisa Rourke 2014
dc.subject authors
dc.subject literary theory
dc.subject implied author
dc.subject narrative theory
dc.title The Phantom of the Author: Literary Analysis Reconsidered
dc.type Thesis
dc.contributor.department Department of English PhD Doctoral English Brandeis University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

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