Foucault describes the author and his name as „the equivalent to a description“. He believes that the authors role exists within his function, - to „characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a certain society“, and therefore describes this functions four characteristics:
- A book/text is an object of appropriation – the authorconcept arose when the author became subject to punishment, through illegal activity.
- There are different examples of how the author function doesn‘t affect all texts in the same way. Fx. The fact that folk tales are anonymous was accepted, because of the fact that these old stories had been told over and over was proof enough for their authenticity. As with scientific texts in the 17th and 18th centuries that were accepted as anonymous and authentic without relation to an author.
- The construction of the author function is complex. Foucault explains this through the example of literary criticism, and how the author is defined here. He believes that the method originates from the Christian tradition of authenticating texts - exemplified through Saint Jerome and his criteria for authenticity. In other words þ not only the text or discourse itself defines the author function.
- Foucault suggests that the author could be a sort of „second self“ or „alter ego“. This „plurality of egos doesn‘t just appear in prose but in all discourses.
Another characteristic for the author function is authors like Freud, who Foucault calls an „initiator of discoursive practise“ – By writing about psykoanalysis he opened up for a completely new discourse and new formations within this discourse.
He finishes off by suggesting and almost agreeing with Roland Barthes in saying that the author might soon disappear. He proposes to strip the subject of its creative role and analyse it as a complex and variable function of discourse, as he puts it.