Importance Of Knowledge On Author Essay

Submitted By mariamabdulle
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Discuss how important it is (or not) to have knowledge about an author in order to interpret their work.

While some argue that having knowledge about an author in order to completely and fully understand their work is unnecessary (such as the practice of "close reading" which is to read a literary text without any authorial knowledge, something that is used by New Critics), others vehemently believe that having a contextual background of a text is crucial. It is seen as vital to know the authorial intent and motivations to be able to comprehend the true purpose of a text and understand its full potential.
It is perceived as important to have knowledge about an author because it gives us, the readers, an insight to authorial intentions. Often readers are confused when interpreting and analysing, therefore any obtained knowledge of the author becomes assistive to having disclosure on the text. In the case that the author is alive, it is possible to ask them personally what he or she meant by a particular text. Even if some New Critics argue that "all we have is the text itself, and the work of criticism has no business inquiring into the quite separate question of its author's intentions," (Bennet and Royle 1960: 22) it is still essential and rather crucial to know the author's intent when seeking to understand what a piece of text means.
Roland Barthes, a French literary theorists doesn't believe in reading a text with the author's identity in mind (such as their political views, historical context, religion, ethnicity, psychology, biographical and personal attributes) however, others argue that it is impossible to separate the author from the text, and that to do so is denying responsibility. The text often reflects its writer; for example, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: although it is not autobiographical, the events of the book had in fact been similar to the events of the author's life. Moreover, to understand the characters and the content of the book, including historical context, one must be aware of the author's personal life and how it is imitated in their texts. Therefore, Roland Barthes's idea of the Death of an Author- that "the author, in other words, is not so much an actual author at all: rather, it is your personal projection, your idea of the author." (Bennett and Royle 1960: 21) -seems to be insufficient, as it is fundamental to have knowledge of the author in the back of one's head whilst reading their work. It is safe to say that the author cannot die, "precisely because the author is- always has been and always will be- a ghost" (Bennett and Royle 1960: 23).
This then leads on to acquiring other personal information about the author, such as their ethnicity, gender and age. Some readers may feel a certain way about a text and may deem it worthy due to the writer's profile. A survey by the Time Magazine found that though men and women read the same number of books, readers stick to authors of their own sex (Time 2014). It is then possible, due to this, that books can be subjected to gender bias attitudes. Some female…