MS 190: Authorship is the course website for the Fall 2006 Media Studies senior seminar at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
I have to admit finding two things to talk about every week, beyond the readings, that are interesting to us, that nevertheless have to do with authorship seems a little daunting to me. I don't even update my personal blog this often and I can say whatever I want there (in fact my personal blog is suffering greatly at the hands of this blog. I don't think I've updated since the class started).
However I do have something I want to direct all your attention to becasue I feel like everyone needs to be made aware, and I've been really dissappointed by the responses I've been getting from other people when I try to draw their attention to this. They all tell me that they're just doing their job and how can I criticize someone when my criticism basically comes down to "they're doing their job too well". I'm talking about PSYOP. This, my friends is the Board of Shadowy FIgures behind the Evil Empire.
Becoming a "blogger" myself has forced me to pay more attention to the wonderful wide world of online authorship, and the latest story/controversy sure is a good one. lonelygirl15 was a screenname attached to a teenage girl named "Bree" who used myspace and youtube to display diary entries predominantly in video form. Though there are tons of similar diaries and videos, Bree's attracted a huge and devoted audience eager to know everything about her. They became skeptical that she was actually a 15-year old from suburban America and started sleuthing. This week the identities of the true creators was revealed to be three twenty-something male filmmakers who hired a 19 year old actress to "play" Bree.
For progress to occur regarding the position that women have in society, there must be unification in order to have understanding and thus affect change. To categorize female authorship in any way( the female genre) is to limit the affect that it can have on change away from the historically prevalent denial of their validity and value.
bell hooks' writing about rap & Leesoid's blog have me wanting to say a million things, but since I'm presenting tonight & i'll probably talk more than enough then, I'll try to just mark a few main points:
-hooks writes that "much postmodernist critical inquiry has centered precisely on the issues of 'difference' and 'otherness'...in the absence of any sustained research into what artists of color and others outside the mainstream might be up to..."
First of all, where is all the research? Does it even exist? I've spent the past hour looking for some supporting evidence of a statistic that I've cited and heard many times in my life, but never gotten around to actually looking up: 80% of rap, r&b, and jazz production companies are owned by whites. Has anyone else heard this, and can anyone find any solid source?
Although I didn't absorb much out of the Marchessault readings, I DID at least wean a TINY tidbit that I found interesting. This was along the lines of women declaring feminism through their works, particuarly women directors. She mentions that women would rather not choose "sides" with feminism--in fact to be associated with it would in a sense destroy their authorship by grouping them into a category. I can understand this. Nicole Holeffcener is no longer a brilliant director, but a brilliant FEMENIST director who makes FEMINIST films. Who wants to be identified like that? I sure don't. You don't hear Bruckheimer critiqued as an "accomplished male director who really captures a sense of patriarchy" (oh and 'Pearl Harbor' sucked) so why do women have to suffer the genre and label?
At the risk of this sounding like a cop-out, I must say I have absolutely no idea how to respond to Marchessault's article, aside from complaining about my inability to understand her point. I found the beginning (meaning, the paragraph about her adventure in the bathroom) and the last section interesting, beyond that her article made me want to cry. I think, in part, this is because I am unfamiliar with a majority of the theorists she references (aside from good ol' Barthes), and in part because I can't concentrate on an article which requires me to "unpack" each sentence.
Something that interested me in the hooks essay (ahh, the sweet ease of not having to hit the shift button to type author's names) was her description of the postmodern "condition". hooks describes this condition as "many other groups now shar[ing] with black folks a sense of deep alienation, despair, uncertainty, loss of grounding, even if it is not informed by shared circumstances." Wow. Though a somewhat common description of the plight of "black folk", it's kind of intense to see hooks extend it to all of contemporary culture.
This gets me thinking about postmodernism, its emergence in critical theory, and its roots outside of academia.
"Music is the cultural product created by African-Americas that has most attracted postmodern theorists. It is rarely acknowledged that there is far greater censorship and restriction of other forms of cultural production by black folks"---
Ok, so I know that bell hooks discusses rap to state that this is the one of the only venues through which black culture is able to radically express itself. I know also, this one cultural form isn't enough for bell hooks, she wants more space for black expression in post-modernism. But, I want to talk about rap, because when she mentioned it-- I started thinking about it, attracted like a postmodern theorist.
I just wanted to express my thoughts on the link between this week's two articles. I think it is apparent that they are both about exploring the significance of underrepresented voices, be they from women, racial minorities, etc. What stands out to me is how different their conclusions are about suggestions for the future of authorship, as compared to last week's readings. Marchessault frankly states, "Unlike Barthes' Great Authors (MallarmÃ©, Proust, Balzac), women have nothing to gain from the destruction of the author at this historical juncture" (89). Women have been working for literary recognition for so long, and just as they are approaching this prize, Barthes is calling for its obliteration.
With Barthes, Foucault, Nesbit, and now Marchessault, we have extensively discussed authorship in terms of life and death. For me, this is slightly dramatic and very dichotomous. It's overkill. I really appreciated that Marchessault pointed out the need to move beyond such black-and-white thinking. She writes that confronting the exclusionary role of the Author "might be done by exploring alternative notions of subjectivity not bound to a dialectic of masters and slaves or life and death" (89). She suggests a way to break this dichotomy that is actually in direct opposition to Barthes' call for the death of the author. Based on the ideas of Felski, she explains the possibility of "a sphere that would bring together both the author and the reader--as a discursive political community" (87) through a shared identity, here gender. This is an issue of collective representation. She continues, "The affirmation of female authorial voices can be understood as widening the political scope to take account of differences between women (class, race, nationality and sexuality) with the view towards larger political coalitions" (89). The patterns of individual recognition lead to large-scale group power dynamics, and are therefore crucial to societal democracy. To bring "death" to the author in order to bring "life" to the reader makes no sense when you consider how the two are inextricably bound together, especially among minority groups.