author The author is superficially understood to be the creative, and individual, source of a written text. The idea that there is a unique creator of a text, and that the task of reading is, in consequence, a more or less passive process of recovering his or her intentions and meanings, has been variously challenged. Nineteenth-century hermeneuticians, notably Wilhelm Dilthey, challenged the assumption that the author had any privileged insight into the meaning of his or her text by critically examining the active process entailed in reading, and thus the need to construct rather than merely to recover meaning from a text. In effect, the author's selfunderstandings are exposed as merely one more interpretation of the text amongst many others. In aesthetics, criticism of the intentional fallacy' holds that interpretation of a work of art cannot claim to be definitive or authoritative by having recovered the author's intentions. (Within post-structuralism, Barthes most spectacularly declared the 'death of the author' (1977c).) Challenging the author's status thereby pushes aesthetic reflection towards the intrinsic qualities of the art work or text, and at the extreme undermines the possibility of there being a single, definitive or correct reading.
It may be noted that only certain texts typically have authors attributed to them. Thus private and functional texts, such as shopping lists, exercises, advertising copy and much journalism, are not credited to an author, or the authorship is not perceived as significant to the understanding of the work. Similarly, many texts (such as folk songs, jokes, urban myths) emerge in an oral tradition, where again, conventional ideas of authorship are inappropriate. Conversely, any text (such as provisional drafts, letters and diaries) written by someone considered to be an author (such as an established novelist) may acquire additional significance precisely because of this authorship. Individual authorship may also, paradoxically, be attributed to products of co-operative work, so that a film may be attributed to the director (or possibly the producer), although rarely to the writer of the screenplay. [from: Edgar/Segwick, 2002]