Introduction: Open Books, Private Lives

  • Jacqueline Foertsch


Anyone who has ever instructed a group of students to “open the Kristeva and turn to page 24” has engaged a metonym that both enlarges and diminishes the theory-theorist-reader relationship: an individual (the theorist herself) has been transformed by the reader into something much wider-reaching and longer-lasting (the theories that will outlive her by, perhaps, centuries) in a gesture that both confirms and creates the durability of texts and the staying power (if “immortality” is too strong a term) of their authors. That seemingly innocuous “the” preceding the author’s name lends it a mythic, monolithic quality, impressing and intimidating students, while making the author present somehow, right here among us, in ways that are bound to excite student response. I designate this linguistic phenomenon the “authoritext”—a play on both the concept of authoring a text and the authority claimed, challenged, and borrowed into—by visiting writers (all those selected for the syllabus) and inviting readers of texts. To credit a theorist with her ideas in this way—to not only acknowledge that she is primarily responsible for their being here but to also use language that enables these very ideas to, in turn, take responsibility for her being here—is to recognize the ways texts both bring their authors to us so convincingly that we feel we actually know them and substitute so effectively for their actual presence that our knowledge of the life behind the work is ultimately irrelevant.


Cultural Artifact Open Book Feminist Study Film Theory Sexual Politics 
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© Jacqueline Foertsch 2007

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  • Jacqueline Foertsch

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