Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lecture Three - Borges: Fragments, Dreams, and the Meaning of Tradition - Part I

Lecture Three - Jorge Luis Borges: Fragments, Dreams, and the Meaning of Tradition
Part I 
 [DRAFT currently being updated- last updated 01.12.2014 - Part II to be added and essay completed soon.]

It is difficult to write about Borges.  Much like The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim there is a "hybridization" or "a rather uncomfortable combination of those allegorical poems of Islam which rarely fail to interest their translator and of those detective novels which inevitably surpass John H. Watson  and refine the horror of human life found in the most irreproachable boarding houses of Brighton."  There is no one approach or point of departure for examining his work and its significance for Cultural Studies. In fact, the difficulty of approach, or rather the multiplicity of possible approaches to Borges mirrors the multiplicity of possible approaches to the genealogy of Cultural Studies. Perhaps it is interesting to note that it is easier to speak about Borges than it is to write about him. In any event, we shall give it a try. Borges the person we will leave to the biographers and focus for the most part on Borges the author, as he suggested.

Why read Borges in the context of a genealogy of Cultural Studies? Well, first of all, keep in mind that we do not examine literatures, objects, or sounds as mere critics. Instead, these constitute objects of study whose construction and interpretation may give us some insight into our own existence. They are artifacts rather than aesthetic objects. While I have always found Borges to be a uniquely appealing writer, that is not why he is included in the genealogy of Cultural Studies that I am presenting to you.

Among the reasons to read Borges are the influence his work had on, for example, Michel Foucault and his views on the author, authority, and critical analysis; the themes which circulate freely across Borges’ works are precursors of many of the themes we later find in Cultural Studies and related fields; his simultaneous marginality and cosmopolitanism. So we will try to take up some of these up leitmotifs, but much will be left unsaid and unexamined --- all of which is up to you to pursue further. Perhaps a course devoted to Borges would be appropriate....

For our approach to Borges, we will begin with three short texts: “Borges and I,” “The Other,” and “Kafka and his Precursors.” The first of these is a parable and the last an examination of a writer known for his parables and stories wherein one finds parables within parables or stories within stories, as we find in the Homeric epics and the Thousand and One Nights, which Borges refers to in many of his stories and poems.

The text of "Borges and I" is brief:

Jorge Luis Borges, “Borges and I” (complete text)
The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.
Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.
I do not know which of us has written this page.

The identity of Borges or any other author/producer with a work, and indeed the very unity of the self/individual are both called into question in this parable. The two (or more) Borges are clearly growing more distant from each other. The one writes, he exists and experiences the world, but the other one, “the one called Borges is the one things happen to. I walk... look.... understand” and while Borges shares these passions, his passion is not genuine because his is made of words and interpretations. Things happen to one while they are recounted or mythologized by the other: “I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me.” The text does not actually bestow immortality to the one who is “destined to perish.” The one who is writes will “return to language and tradition.” Words and interpretations, not quite immortality; a virtual or dreamworld where “everything belongs to oblivion or to him.” The ambiguity of the final sentence brings to the fore the problem of the author, intention, and who has the authority to determine the meaning of a work.

This fragmented self is to be found in our second text from Borges, “The Other.” The story begins: “It was in Cambridge. Back in February, 1969, that the event took place.” The event was the meeting of the seventy year old Borges with his 20 year old self; the younger Borges in Geneva just after the horrors of World War I and the older Borges in Cambridge just after the events of 1968.  Except that time and space are both compressed in the story into a few moments in one place:
I said straight out ‘your name is Jorge Luis Borges. I, too, am Jorge Luis Borges. This is 1969 and we’re in the City of Cambridge.’
‘No,’ he said in a voice that was mine but a bit removed. He paused, then became insistent. ‘I’m here in Geneva, on a bench, a few steps away from the Rhone. The strange thing is that we resemble each other, but you’re much older and your hair is gray.’

They debate whether they are dreaming each other. They explore knowledge that only they share or will share, but having that knowledge is not enough to convince either of them of the existence of the other while at the same time neither doubts the reality of his own existence.  In the end 
 
Each of us was a caricature copy of he other.... Either to offer advice or to argue was pointless since, unavoidably, it was his fate to become the person I am.
We goodbye without touching each other.... I have brooded a great deal over that meeting, which until now I have related to no one. I believe I have discovered the key. The meeting was real but the other man was dreaming when he conversed with me, and this explains how he was able to forget me. I conversed with him while awake and the memory of it disturbs me. The other man dreamed me, but he did not dream me exactly.

Borges appears as the one who “knows... walks....understands” and as Borges the author, but additionally Borges the dreamer of a figure and as a figure in the dream of another. In other words, the one who experiences, the one who exists as a trace in others, and the Borges of the unconscious of the dreams of many dreamers. What exists in the imagination is no less real for Borges than the aspects of the physical world that present themselves to our limited sensory apparatus. As with dreams, so too with texts. It is enough, Borges maintained, that a book merely be imagined for it to exist. (See, for example, the story “The Secret Miracle” in Labrynths.)  Dreams here are not approached in terms of the sort of vulgar Freudianism that now pervades everyday life, as we are not delving into dreams as disclosing some individual psyche or even a collective unconscious, because there are no such unities in Borges. Dreams here are approached in a manifestly pre-Freudian sense that can be found in such diverse texts as Charles Brockden Brown’s novel Edgar Huntly, or, Memoirs of a Sleep Walker (1799):
"Proceeding irresolutely and slowly forward, my hands at length touched a wall. This, like the flooring, was of stone, and was rugged and impenetrable. I followed this wall. An advancing angle occurred at a short distance, which was followed by similar angles. I continued to explore this clue, till the suspicion occurred that I was merely going round the walls of a vast and irregular apartment.
The utter darkness disabled me from comparing directions and distances. This discovery, therefore, was not made on a sudden, and was still entangled with some doubt. My blood recovered some warmth, and my muscles some elasticity; but in proportion as my sensibility returned, my pains augmented. Overpowered by my fears and my agonies, I desisted from my fruitless search, and sat down, supporting my back against the wall.
My excruciating sensations for a time occupied my attention. These, in combination with other causes, gradually produced a species of delirium. I existed, as it were, in a wakeful dream. With nothing to correct my erroneous perceptions, the images of the past occurred in capricious combinations and vivid hues. Methought I was the victim of some tyrant who had thrust me into a dungeon of his fortress, and left me no power to determine whether he intended I should perish with famine, or linger out a long life in hopeless imprisonment. Whether the day was shut out by insuperable walls, or the darkness that surrounded me was owing to the night and to the smallness of those crannies through which daylight was to be admitted, I conjectured in vain.
Sometimes I imagined myself buried alive. Methought I had fallen into seeming death, and my friends had consigned me to the tomb, from which a resurrection was impossible. That, in such a case, my limbs would have been confined to a coffin, and my coffin to a grave, and that I should instantly have been suffocated, did not occur to destroy my supposition. Neither did this supposition overwhelm me with terror or prompt my efforts at deliverance. My state was full of tumult and confusion, and my attention was incessantly divided between my painful sensations and my feverish dreams.....
The sound of my voice made him start and exclaim, 'Am I alive? am I awake? Speak again, I beseech you, and convince me that I am not dreaming or delirious.'" 

or a footnote from William James’ The Principles of Psychology:
The world of dreams is our real world whilst we are sleeping, because our attention then lapses from the sensible world. Conversely, when we wake the attention usually lapses from the dream-world and that becomes unreal. But if a dream haunts us and compels our attention during the day it is very apt to remain figuring in our consciousness as a sort of sub-universe alongside the waking world. Most people have probably had dreams which it is hard to imagine not to have been glimpses into an actually existing region of being, perhaps a corner of the ‘spiritual world.’ And dreams have accordingly in all ages been regarded as revelations, and have played a large part in furnishing forth mythologies and creating themes for faith to lay hold upon. The ‘larger universe,’ here, which helps us to believe both in the dream and in the waking reality which is its immediate reductive, is the total universe, of Nature plus the Supernatural. The dream holds true, namely, in one half of that universe; the waking perceptions the other half. Even today dream-objects figure among the realities in which some ‘psychic-researchers’ are seeking to rouse our belief. All our theories, not only those about the supernatural, but our philosophic and scientific theories as well, are like our dreams in rousing such different degrees of belief in different minds. William James, The Principles of Psychology, Volumes One and Two, 1890. Dover Press edition, 1950, Vol. II., pg. 294.
One finds James mentioned frequently in the pages of Borges, and using James, Borges offers us a way through this maze of shifting simulacrums in the short piece “Kafka and his Precursors” where we can see his own approach to one of his favorite authors --- and one whom we will discuss in the next lecture. It also introduces Borges’ approaches to "intertextuality" and to the "death of the author".
Borges writes that he finds Kafka in the pages of other writers. That if Kafka had never written, the elements that we associate with the Kafkaesque would still be with us. But we don’t see Kafka’s precursors as precursors until we know Kafka. Until then, they would seem to have no Kafkaesque themes. By looking for his precursors, we reread their works as having elements that we would otherwise recognize by a different author’s name, if we even named them. At the same time, even if Kafka’s executor had burned his work, Kafka would still have existed, would still have composed the stories that we can read back into other texts. Trees fall unheard in the forest all of the time, after all.

When we read a text, we are bringing to that reading all of the other texts we have read, knowledge that we have accumulated, experience, commentaries by others, etc. and bringing these to a reading, Borges maintains, amounts to a re reading or even rewriting of the text. That the engagement of the reader with the text is not an engagement with the author (assuming we could hold that figure steady for more than an instant), but the creation of a new variation of the text.

Borges finds Kafka in the following texts, which means that Borges reread these texts as precursors to Kafka, whether or not Kafka did or they intended to invent Kafka. [In a similar manner Umberto Eco, whose essay we will read in a couple of weeks, says that he created the pop writer Dan Brown and that Dan Brown is just a character from his novel.] Of course, Kafka exists elsewhere, too, in fact, in Kafka we can find a Precursor and contemporary of Borges, but Borges finds Kafka in:

Zeno’s paradoxes 

Han Yu, who famously united writing and ethics, through the French work Anthologie raisonnee de la litterature chinoise, by Margoulies (1948)

Lowrie’s Kierkegaard
Lowrie was the principle translator of Kierkegaard’s works into English

Lord (Edward John Moreton) Dunsay “Carassonne” from his book A Dreamer’s Tales

And finally this poem by Browning where a monster, an imaginary being, a dreamer, and possibly god appear and disappear, with its' hints of Kafka's The Trial or Memoirs of a Dog.

Robert Browning “Fears and Scruples”

Fears And Scruples

Here's my case. Of old I used to love him.
This same unseen friend, before I knew:
Dream there was none like him, none above him,--
Wake to hope and trust my dream was true.

Loved I not his letters full of beauty?
Not his actions famous far and wide?
Absent, he would know I vowed him duty,
Present, he would find me at his side.

Pleasant fancy! for I had but letters,
Only knew of actions by hearsay:
He himself was busied with my betters;
What of that? My turn must come some day.

'Some day' proving--no day! Here's the puzzle.
Passed and passed my turn is. Why complain?
He's so busied! If I could but muzzle
People's foolish mouths that give me pain!

'Letters?' (hear them!) 'You a judge of writing?
Ask the experts!--How they shake the head
O'er these characters, your friend's inditing--
Call them forgery from A to Z !

'Actions? Where's your certain proof' (they bother)
'He, of all you find so great and good,
He, he only, claims this, that, the other
Action--claimed by men, a multitude?'

I can simply wish I might refute you,
Wish my friend would,--by a word, a wink,--
Bid me stop that foolish mouth,--you brute you!
He keeps absent,--why, I cannot think.

Never mind! Tho' foolishness may flout me.
One thing's sure enough; 'tis neither frost,
No, nor fire, shall freeze or burn from out me
Thanks for truth--tho' falsehood, gained--tho' lost.

All my days, I'll go the softlier, sadlier,
For that dream's sake! How forget the thrill
Thro' and thro' me as I thought, 'The gladlier
Lives my friend because I love him still!'

Ah, but there's a menace some one utters!
'What and if your friend at home play tricks?
Peep at hide-and-seek behind the shutters?
Mean your eyes should pierce thro' solid bricks?

'What and if he, frowning, wake you, dreamy?
Lay on you the blame that bricks--conceal?

Say 'At least I saw who did not see me,
Does see now, and presently shall feel
'?'


'Why, that makes your friend a monster!' say you;
'Had his house no window? At first nod,
Would you not have hailed him?' Hush, I pray you!
What if this friend happen to be--God?

There are two additional references in the marginal notes and in Borges, footnotes and asides should be taken seriously. The first reference is to Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy, which serves to remind us of two recurring themes in Borges: the unconscious and the meaning of scientific rationality. 
 
The second note refers back to Borges the writer. The question of author/and the authority of the author that confronted us at the end of “Borges and I” returns in the form of a reference to T. S. Eliot’s “points of view.” Looking at this reference to Eliot tells us something about how Borges deals with the problem of the author. Eliot’s “points of view” is concerned with the question of whether authoritative knowledge of an author’s intention - or even of the meaning of a text - is possible.
“His early poetry broaches the question of authority as a matter of conduct and value. How might we gain authority over ourselves? And how might we reach definitive judgments about life’s meaning?.... Eliot’s first response to this dilemma is what his philosophy calls the ‘theory of points of view,’ which held that we can construct reliable --- though never indubitable – judgments through the accumulations of many immediate perspectives. David Chinitz Companion to T. S. Eliot. John Wiley and Sons, Jun 22, 2009, pgs. 376-377.

We find these “accumulations of many immediate perspectives” scattered throughout the pages of Borges.  There is accumulation of events, but not any development of psyches or unfolding quests. Characters do not grow nor do they develop. (Think Seinfeld here, if you would like a more popular reference.) They might enjoy those sudden epiphanies you can find in James Joyce’s short stories, but as in Joyce the epiphanic experience in Borges is either forgotten or passes over into “language and tradition.” The absence of character development is one result springing from Borges’ rejection of the Novel as a means of expression.  As the preferred form of Modernist writing, the novel was essentially dependent upon character development.  The plot had to unfold, the nature underneath had to be gradually revealed, etc.  Borges might also reject the recent explosion of memoirs as well, or take a stance of welcoming the display of repetition one finds across these supposedly unique re-tellings of memories, all of which add to the "accumulation of many immediate perspectives” without moving us anywhere.

This accumulation tells us that there is no unity to the past, but also that as we line in time and space, there is no unity to us, either. Each of the many Borges is the real one and simultaneously a “false” one who is, on his own terms, also real. This multiplicity of perspectives aligns with Eliot’s “attack” on “the metaphysical theory of the substantial unity of the soul” and his disparaging of any idea of the unity of a self and an author who expresses: 
 
“the poet has, not a ‘personality’ to express, but a particular medium, which is only a medium and not a personality, in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways. Impressions and experiences which are important for the man may take no place in the poetry, and those which become important in the poetry may play quite a negligible part in the man, the personality. T. S. Eliot (1888–1965).“Tradition and the Individual Talent” from The Sacred Wood. 1921.

So, just as Borges finds Kafka in the pages of others, so too can we find Borges prefigured already in the texts of Eliot, Kafka, Poe, Conrad, etc. We are again presented with a fragmented “self,” a fragmented and infinite past, and texts which are altered by our very reading and commentary.

But do not let me give you the impression that Borges is doing nothing more than - as he himslef modestly put it -  playing games with language and time. There is always in Borges’ work a concern with ethics in an indeterminate world lacking the surety of Enlightenment categories and optimism. For Borges, time is both circular and a labyrinth, infinite and perhaps determined perhaps not, but the place where reality and dreamworlds are equally real:

That pure representation of homogeneous objects – the night in serenity, a limpid little wall, the provincial scent of the honeysuckle, the elemental earth – is not merely identical to the one present on that corner so many years ago; it is, without resemblances or repetitions, the very same. Time, if we can intuitively grasp such an identity, is a delusion: the difference and inseparability of one moment belonging to its apparent past from another belonging to its apparent present is sufficient to disintegrate..... Denying temporal succession, denying the self, denying the astronomical universe, are apparent desperations and secret consolations. Our destiny (as contrasted with the hell of Swedenborg and the hell of Tibetan mythology) is not frightful by being unreal, it is frightful because it is irreversible and iron-clad. This is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges. (Borges, “A New Refutation of Time” from Labyrinths, pgs. 226-227, 233-234.)

All of this seems at odds with Modernism understood as the last avant garde of the Bourgeois era with its emphasis on individual artistic expression, exploration of the self through narrative, grand narratives of history, the Novel, the text as a singular and relatively autonomous object of criticism and work of individual creation. It appears so because Borges as well as a precursor such as Eliot took themselves to be modernists, or at least Borges once remarked that “say what you will of me, but at least you can not deny that I was a contemporary” (quoting Goethe?).

And let’s not forget that he and his contemporaries experienced the very social dislocations that we mentioned last week as the social context of the origins of Cultural Studies.

With WWI, we get the a seeming wholesale rejection of Enlightenment by both expressionism as well as the rising Fascism. We also have the supposed apex and demise of a Modernism defined by enlightenment, the individual artist/author/scholar, the novel, the work, the text a singular work of individual creation.

With World War II we find the rise of globalism, the Cold War and technological innovation, social movements centered on styles of life, to name a few. Many observers note a profound shift in the order of the world marked by:
1] the end of colonialism
2] the de-centering of Europe (and the “European”) as the key referent or norm against which all else is measured
3] the rise of the United States and the globalization of American culture 
To which I would add a fourth, the Rise of Fascism and Authoritarianism, and   societies of terror [i. e., control of everyday life and acceptance of authority]

Keeping these social and epistemological dislocations in mind, let’s turn to Borges’ insights into texts, authors, and the authority of knowledge through what we now refer to as intertextuality.

In Borges’ work, the individual text is deconstructed into its referential texts, the identity of the author becomes less and less important. The personality of the author is almost ignored, with the exception of their immediate experience.

Borges had been taken by the critics as the writer who discovered intertextuality, albeit via a different route, as had also a number of other writers, including Foucault, certain geographers, novelists such as Hesse in The Glass Bead Game, Flaubert in Sentimental Education, in the marginal notes of the Medieval scribes, Freud in his theory of the structure of the psyche.

The idea of intertextuality: the text is never close, it never refers only to itself, the author of the text is relatively unimportant, etc. The connections are to be found in and between the texts. More than that, each time we read a text we alter it, we rewrite it, and so produce another version of that text. Quite quickly one arrives at the Library of Babel:

In “The Library of Babel,” everything that can possibly be said has already been said: it contains all conceived and imagined languages, and even those which might be conceived or imagined; everything has been pronounced, even those things without meaning, so that the odds of discovering even the smallest formal coherence are extremely slight, as witnessed by the persevering search of those who have never been granted this dispensation. And yet standing above all these words is the rigorous and sovereign language that recovers them, tells their story, and is actually responsible for their birth: a language that is itself poised against death, because it is at the moment of falling into the shaft of an infinite Hexagon that the most lucid (and consequently the last) of the librarians reveals that even the infinity of language multiplies itself to infinity, repeating itself without end in the divided figures of the Same. Michel Foucault “Language to Infinity”

And certainly we are close to the labyrinth of “Pierre Menard”

It is a revelation to compare Menard’s Don Quixote with Cervantes’. The latter, for example, wrote (part one, chapter nine):

. . . truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future’s counselor.

Written in the seventeenth century, written by the “lay genius” Cervantes, this enumeration is a mere rhetorical praise of history. Menard, on the other hand, writes:

. . . truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future’s counselor.

History, the mother of truth: the idea is astounding. Menard, a contemporary of William James, does not define history as an inquiry into reality but as its origin. Historical truth, for him, is not what has happened; it is what we judge to have happened. The final phrases—exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future’s counselor —are brazenly pragmatic.

The contrast in style is also vivid. The archaic style of Menard—quite foreign, after all—suffers from a certain affectation. Not so that of his forerunner, who handles with ease the current Spanish of his time.

There is no exercise of the intellect which is not, in the final analysis, useless. A philosophical doctrine begins as a plausible description of the universe; with the passage of the years it becomes a mere chapter—if not a paragraph or a name—in the history of philosophy. In literature, this eventual audacity is even more notorious. The Quixote —Menard told me—was, above all, an entertaining book; now it is the occasion for patriotic toasts, grammatical insolence and obscene de luxe editions. Fame is a form of incomprehension, perhaps the worst.

Borges’ influence most obvious in . Lucretius is mentioned by Borges in his stories and essays; for example see page 224 where he gives the thesis of the article. It is fitting on many levels that Borges and Foucault often refer to Lucretius, because besides his name, we know almost nothing about him, other than that he lived between 95 and 55 B.C.E. He really is an author who is just a name and a poem. Lucretius is also fitting because he advocated a philosophy that lays, quite literally, in ruins such as Oinoanda and Herculaneum and yet still persists).

To return to 
Foucault tells us that The Order of Things was prompted in part by a reading of Borges that made him start to consider our modes of classifying the world. (This is the point where words and things can not be separated, where they become our way of classifying and giving meaning to the world.

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all familiar landmarks of my thought ---our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography --- breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a 'certain Chinese encyclopedia' in which it is written that 'animals are divided into (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs,) (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.” In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that....
That passage from Borges kept me laughing a long time, though not without a certain uneasiness that I found hard to shake off. Perhaps because there arose in its wake the suspicion that there is a worse kind of disorder that that of the incongruous, the linking together of things that are inappropriate; I mean the disorder in which fragments of a large number of possible orders glitter separately in the dimension, without law or geometry.... Michel Foucault, preface to The Order ofThings: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, xv.

Foucault’s book is about how particular discourses classify the world and how these classifications relate to one another as discourses comprising what he refers to as a “Regime of Truth” (the political overtones are important, because establishing the regime of truth is part of the analysis of the relations of power, which is Foucault’s larger project). He takes a number of discourses: natural history (often mentioned by Borges), political economy, linguistics, anthropology, wealth, etc. and try to understand what the calls the “functional conditions of specific discursive practices”(114), one of these specific discursive practices is the author function.  By this, we along with Foucault mean that 

“...an author’s name is not simply an element of speech. It’s presence is functional in that it serves as a means of classification. A name can group together a number of texts and thus differentiate them from others. A name also establishes different forms of relationships among texts. Neither Hermes nor Hippocrates existed in the same sense that we can say Balzac existed, but the fact that a number of texts were attached to a single name implies that relationships of homogeneity, filiation, reciprocal explanation, authentication, or common utilization were established among them. Finally, the author’s name characterizes a particular manner of existence of discourse. Discourse that possesses an author’s name is not to be immediately consumed and forgotten; neither is it accorded the momentary attention given to ordinary, fleeting words. Rather, its status and its manner of reception are regulated by the culture in which it circulates.

The author's name is not simply an element in a discourse... it performs a certain role in regard to narrative discourse, assuring a classificatory function. Such a name permits one to group together a certain number of texts, define them, differentiate them from and contrast them to others. In addition, it establishes a relationship among the texts.

It is... the result of a complex operation that constructs a certain being of reason that we call 'author.' Critics doubtless try to give this being of reason a realistic status, by discerning, in the individual, a 'deep' motive, a 'creative' power, or a 'design,' the milieu in which writing originates. Nevertheless, these aspects of an individual which we designate as making him an author are only a projection, in more or less psychologizing terms, of the operations we force texts to undergo, the connections we make, the traits we establish as pertinent, the communities we recognize, or the exclusions we practice.

At the end, Foucault announces that new questions must be asked and these questions no long focus on the single text and the intention of the author.

“No longer the tiresome repetitions:
‘Who is the real author?’
‘Have we proof of his authenticity and originality?’
‘What has he revealed of his most profound self in his language?’

New Questions will be heard:
‘What are the modes of existence on this discourse?’
‘Where does it come from; how is it circulated; who controls it?’
‘What placements are determined for possible subjects?’
‘Who can fulfill these diverse functions of the subject?’”

Jorges Luis Borges remarked that “I do not write for a select minority, which means nothing to me, nor for that adulated platonic entity known as ‘The Masses.’ Both abstractions, so dear to the demagogue, I disbelieve in. I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time.” (Preface to The Book of Sand 1977).  “What matter who’s speaking...?” as Foucault quoted Beckett.

Next:
Lecture Two - Borges: Fragments, Dreams, and the Meaning of Tradition, part II.