Marked Men: White Masculinity in Crisis

By Sally Robinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
TRAUMAS OF EMBODIMENT

White Male Authorship in Crisis

In The Absent Body, a phenomenological exploration of the hypothesis that “one's own body is rarely the thematic object of experience,” Drew Leder remarks that “a certain telos toward disembodiment is an abiding strain of Western intellectual history” (1–3). This is nowhere more evident, perhaps, than in what until recently has passed for literary history. 1 While different eras have evinced more or less interest in the details of authors′ lives, constructions of elite or highbrow authorship have generally tended toward the disembodiment of the writing subject. Much cultural work was done in the Romantic period, for instance, to insure that the Author occupied an ideological space explicitly outside the marketplace and, thus, implicitly outside the demands of bodily subsistence. 2 While the Romantic notion of the Author is by now thoroughly demystified as an ideological construction, the “death of the Author” announced in 1968 by Roland Barthes has, in some ways, further disembodied authorship. No longer even existing under the mask of “genius,” writing becomes “that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing” (Barthes 142). Despite the deconstructive impulse at the heart of Barthes's project and those spawned by it, the Author, even through death, gets remystified as a disembodied force under the sign of “writing.” Ironically, in one of those strange bedfellows moments of postmodernism, the anti-deconstructivist Dinesh D'Souza says much the same thing when he notes that “[t]here are disagreements and debates among these various new schools of criticism, but they are united in a general effort to capsize the author and his work in order to shift semantic authority to ‘imperial readers’” (179).

D'Souza's lamentation—central to his scripting of the culture wars as a battle between the forces of unmarked and disembodied thought or creativity and the forces of an identity politics reducible to body politics—suggests that more

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