“Thanks to the postmodernists, much of the discussion of authorship in the last half century has focused on the medium of film.”

‘Thanks to the postmodernists, much of the discussion of authorship in the last half century has focused on the medium of film. This is, it would seem, largely owing to the fact that the dozens or hundreds of individuals involved in the making of a film collectively challenge the notion of films having a singular author—an auteur. More recently, this challenge has returned to other forms of art, including literature. A trend in postmodernism is to assert that each of these individuals is an author of the work in question or, alternatively, that there is as such no one who deserves the title of author. Harold Love suggests that “we need to recognize that most novels are much more like films than we are prepared to acknowledge in deserving a long roll-out of credits at the end.” Nevertheless, despite the recognition of the valuable input of others, we continue to apply the title of author and to do so very selectively.

More recently, philosophers on the analytic side of the analytic and continental divide have taken up the authorship issue with particular focus on distinguishing contributors and others from true authors, working to determine what makes two or more contributors to a given work joint or co-authors and leaving others to be, at best, acknowledged for their helpful input….

… An author is one with the ultimate responsibility for the form and content of the work, including its artistic and, where applicable, moral qualities. Put another way, we hold the author or authors responsible for the ideas being expressed and the form of that expression. This responsibility, I would suggest, arises from the author’s power to select and arrange elements as constitutive of the work.

… The difference between multiple authorship and co-authorship, I suggest, comes back to the issue of responsibility. Does an author take responsibility for just his contribution to the work or to the work as a whole? If I author an entry for the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, for example, I do not take responsibility for anything beyond my contribution. Rather, my contribution makes up a discrete, identifiable unit of authorship and can be separated from the remainder of the Encyclopedia without serious effect upon the rest of the larger work. And this seems true even if I make a joint commitment with a body of other philosophers to build the Encyclopedia in this way. If I co-author an article with a colleague, however—as I have on a number of occasions with Craig Derksen—this is not usually the case: my contribution does not consist of a discrete unit that may be separated from my co-author’s, leaving a unified whole. As such, each he and I take responsibility for the work as a whole. Indeed, my co-author and I signal this by not identifying which elements were written by whom. In general, I think it reasonable to suggest, first, that where more than one individual can be identified as meeting the conditions for authorship of a given work, that work has more than one author. Where that work is made up of discrete, identifiable units of authorship, that work is multiply authored. And where that work is a unified whole without discrete, identifiable units of authorship, that work is co-authored.’

-Darren Hudson Hick, “Authorship, Co-Authorship, and Multiple Authorship.” Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism. May2014, Vol. 72 Issue 2, p147-156. 10p.

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