Is there one Shakespeare, or one Shakespeare for every reader?

I have been thinking about what it means to make assumptions about authorship.  Am I an author since what I write every week is published with instant global access?  This experience gives me an opportunity to think about authorship from a different perspective. The one who can see the whole picture is one who steps away from the frame; in this case the frame that a reader looks through or is surrounded by. You can pick your perspective and how it affects your position as a reader.

Have you examined your position as a reader and your choices to define ‘author’? Is an author a creative functionary assembling and reorganizing materials within a tradition? Are they an individual talent plumbing their own unique experience and central to the production of their work?  Is an author one particular genius taking a position with respect to the tradition of their time? Do you see an author as a social construct the reader projects making ‘author’ a subjective concept? Is there one Shakespeare, or one Shakespeare for every reader?

Reading several authors simultaneously, Said, Rushdie, Ovid and Gascoigne, provides a great opportunity to think about this issue. Said, Ovid and Rushdie share some biographical details while Ovid, Rushdie and Gascoigne share style points. What do their texts ‘mean’ and how do they reflect upon their ‘authors?’  As a reader do you draw conclusions about authors and their lives based on reading a text? Can any of these three authors be thought of as separate from their times and traditions with discourse?

Ovid, Said and Rushdie engage with powerful historic and literary themes of their times. Does this mean their texts are the product of traditions they work within, or against, at the expense of their individual experience?  Can you discern their individual experience in their work? Have you considered Foucault’s ‘author function’ and the notion of ‘author’ as a social construct? How about the production and distribution of texts as ‘culture’ and its effect on our ideas of authorship?

Authorship became fascinating while reading Said’s  ‘On Late Style.’ In ‘On Late Style’ Said studies the last works of great artists.  He says he writes it because he knows he is dying. But he is truly at the height of his powers in this text as are the artists he studies like Beethoven and Ibsen. That is a very contradictory message. I found myself reading and projecting every imaginable emotion and idea to construct my ‘Said.’ Realizing how I constructed this author came as quite a shock.My constructed Said is a very interesting ‘author.’ I now can not separate ‘author’ from the codes and conventions of our shared times.

The position I adopt as a reader has been forever changed. As a reader there is a powerful aspect to seeing the ‘author’ as something quite separate from Edward Said. The ‘I’ on his pages is somehow more forceful and compelling while his own genius is even more precious.

One thought on “Is there one Shakespeare, or one Shakespeare for every reader?

  1. Different philosophical schools and theories of interpretation give different views of how we can consider the author and the reader. But I think author and reader have a very intimate relationship, an intimate interplay. There is not author without the reader, and there cannot be any value in reading without the author and his magic art and imagination. One depends on the other. Roland Barthes spoke and asserted at one time the ‘Death of the Author’, but I don’t believe in this theory. When the soul of the author pours the nectar of knowledge through his imagination and writings, his energy unveils the beauty of his wonderful mind and soul, and transports you to a new realm of possibilities. For instance, William Shakespeare. For me Shakespeare is the greatest poet of all times. When I read and delve in the sweetness of his sonnets I feel that my heart is full of that nectar of love and romance that he expresses through his poetical voice to address his beloved. And, as an author, when I write then I feel like the instrument of divine inspiration, and that is the soul, the essence of the relationship between author and reader.

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