One of the first and most shocking things I learned while studying literature (I completed a Ph.D. in English) is that authors don’t exist. The “author” is a cultural construction.
Literary theorists, when they discovered this, began to gloat that “the author” was dead. By this, they meant that the meaning of a literary text (e.g., a poem or a novel) originated with the reader and not the writer.
But it is more accurate to say that the author is undead, with an immortal monster’s power.
The cultural figure of The Author looms larger than ever before. Print-on-demand technologies have led to a democratization of the author function while at the same time, in a strange paradox, the vertical integration of production and distribution chains has created a series of mini-monopolies on authorship itself.
Put in more simple terms: everyone can be an author now, we believe. However, in actual fact, authors are impossible. They are just figments of the cultural imagination.
By contrast, writers, the actual people who in fact create literary artworks, exist in reality. But there are fewer every day, because they quit, because so many of them cannot bear the crushing weight of the dream and suffer in endless torment, berating themselves for not living up to this impossible ideal.
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