Sunday Book-Thought 134

One such structure is the machinery of publishing and reviewing by means of which an author is brought to the attention of his audience. The social and economic processes that govern the dissemination of a literary work are no more accidental to its reputation, and indeed to its very nature (as that will be perceived by an audience), than are the cultural conceptions (of the nature of poetry, of morality, of the human soul) within which the work is read. The conditions of dissemination interpret the work for its readers in exactly the same way as definitions of poetry, in that they flow from the support widely held – if unspoken – assumptions about the methods of distribution proper to a serious (or nonserious) work. The fact that an author makes his or her appearance in the context of a particular publishing practice rather than some other is a fact about the kind of claim he or she is making on an audience’s attention and is crucial to the success of the claim.
Jane Tompkins, ‘Masterpiece Theater: The Politics of Hawthorne’s Literary Reputation’, Reception Study: From Literary Theory to Cultural Studies, ed. by James L. Machor and Philip Goldstein (London: Routledge, 2001), pp. 133-154 (p. 143).

Sunday Book-Thought 130

Fortunately or unfortunately, it is impossible to get rid of authors entirely because the signs that constitute language are arbitrarily chosen and have no significance apart from their use. The dictionary meanings of words are only potentially meaningful until they are actually employed in a context defined by the relation between author and audience. So how did it happen that professors of literature came to renounce authors and their intentions in favor of a way of thinking — or at least a way of talking — that is without historical precedent, has scant philosophical support, and is to most ordinary readers not only counterintuitive but practically incomprehensible?
– John Farrell, ‘Why Literature Professors Turned Against Authors – Or Did They?’, Los Angeles Review of Books (13 January 2019) <> [accessed 5 November 2019].