Key to any understanding of the authorial act of narrating and narration is the analyses of Gerard Genette in his Narrative Discourse and Narrative Discourse Revisited.1 Genette, with the narrative theorists Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault, has identified several categories through which we can understand what authors are doing when they narrate.2 Whereas Genette evaluates the speaking function in narratives, Barthes asks us to consider the prior question of ‘who is speaking’, claiming that we cannot ever be sure given the nature of writing and language. This led him to his (in)famous announcement of the ‘death of the author’ suggesting that there is an unavoidable pluralism in the meaning of every text beyond the ‘fixing’ of the author. Hence reading history is not about trying to set the meaning (the interpretation or the story of the past) of the author; rather the act of reading itself (the destination or consumption of the text, film or museum display) becomes the centre of meaning creation.3 Foucault’s contribution is, however, to ask if it matters who is the speaker? Foucault says ‘yes’, but only if we ask that question. More important for Foucault is what is the consequence of the ‘disappearance of the author’. For Foucault the concept of an author suggests they are the origin of meaning.
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