Philip Roth and Wikpedia: the moribundity of the author

September 16, 2012

I kind of had a feeling. The view of authorship with which Philip Roth grew up, and which in my view is peculiar to Western culture ca. 1800- ca. 1980, isn’t compatible, thank goodness, with modern information-flows. A blogger named Oliver (aka quominus) who works for the Wikimedia foundation, writes in a post that’s far more persuasive than letter of Roth’s to which he’s responding:

Lets go through his account again, shall we?

“I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed.”

False. There was absolutely no misstatement in the article. What the article claimed at the time he wrote this open letter was that “Kakutani and other critics were struck by the parallels to the life of Anatole Broyard, a writer and the New York Times literary critic in the 1950s and 1960s who was of Louisiana Creole mixed-race descent and passed for white”.

If I’m right that Plato designed the first video game, perhaps Barthes designed Wikipedia?


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