Whose Words?: Text and Authorship in Pierre Menard, Autor del Quijote

Brandon Moores

Abstract


This article argues that Jorge Luis Borges’ story Pierre Menard, Autor del Quijote is profoundly troubling to theories that invoke the author or other aspects of context to interpret a text, and for that reason useful in probing more recent conceptions of the relationship between author and reader. After a brief summary of the relevant portions of Borges’s story, I investigate the theory of authorship that lies behind the narrator’s understanding of Menard’s text, arguing that it rests upon a conception of words as symbols or signs of an underlying thought. I then discuss the implications the story has for two other texts intimately concerned with the problem of authorship: Roland Barthes’ Le mort de l’auteur and Gérard Genette’s Palimpsestes. Neither employs the same conception of words or of authors, but both are nevertheless deeply affected by the story’s suggestions. The last section takes up Borges’s own attitudes towards the problem he has raised.

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