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Loontjes,J.,ResistingtheAuthor:JTLeroy'sfictionalauthorship.

Image[&]Narrative[ejournal],22
(2008).
ImageandNarrativeOnlineMagazineoftheVisualNarrativeISSN1780678X
Issue22.Autofictionand/inImageAutofictionvisuelleII

ResistingtheAuthor:JTLeroy'sfictionalauthorship
Tocitethisarticle:
Loontjes,J.,ResistingtheAuthor:JTLeroy'sfictionalauthorship.Image[&]Narrative[ejournal],22
(2008).
Available:http://www.imageandnarrative.be/autofiction2/loontjes.htm

Abstract(E):Inthelastdecade,theinterestintherelationbetweenauthorandtext,authorand
autobiography,seemstohavegrown.Inmyarticle,IusethestoryoftheauthorJTLeRoyasa
frameworktoanalysewhatthisgrowinginterestmeansforourunderstandingofthewordauthor.JT
LeRoysworkwasconsideredtobeautobiographicalor,perhaps,autofictional.However,the
authorshipofLeRoyappearedtobebasedonahoax;JTLeRoyprovedtobeafictitiouspersona,made
upbythewriterLauraAlbert.Howdoestheunmaskingofanauthorinfluencethereceptionofhis/her
work?Andwhatdoesitteachusabouttherelationbetweenreaderandtext,readerandauthor?Inmy
article,Iattempttoanswerthesequestions,and,furthermore,IdiscusshowLeRoysmixedgender
relatestothequestionofthedeadmaleauthorandthehypedconstructedfemaleauthor.
Abstract(F):Aucoursdeladcenniedernire,lintrtportelarelationentrelauteuretsontexte,
auteuret(auto)biographie,sembleavoirconsidrablementaugmente.Danscetarticle,jepropose
danalyserlhistoiredelauteuramricainJTLeRoytitredecadregnralpouruneanalysedela
significationdecetintrtparticulierpournotrecomprhensionetdfinitiondumotauteur.Luvre
deJTLeRoyatconsidrecommeautobiographique,oummeautofictionnelle.Or,ilfutrvlque
lauteurJTLeRoytoutsimplementnexistaitpas;ilsestavrtreunpersonnagefictifinventpar
lcrivainLauraAlbert.Quellessontlesrpercussionsdunteldmasqupourlarceptiondeluvre
delauteur?Questcequecetterceptionnousapprendsurlerapportentrelelecteuretluvre,le
lecteuretlauteur?Dansleprsentarticle,jessaiedetrouverunerponsecesquestions,etquiplus
est,janalysecommentlambigutdelidentitsexuelledeLeRoyserapportealaquestiondela
mortdelauteurmasculinetalaconstruction,trsenvogue,delafemmecrivain.
keywords:JTLeRoy,genderidentity,PauldeMan,MichelFoucault,literaryhoaxes

Ifoneviewsliteraturenotasanisolatedmediumbutaspartofsocialandculturalnetworks,itcanbeof
greatvaluetoknowwhere,howandbywhomabookiswritten.However,manycriticsdefendthe
positionthattheartisticvalueandmeaningofaliteraryworkshouldnotbedependentonsecondary
information;onlythewordsonthepageshouldbeinterpreted,notextratextualsources.Still,alarge
partofthepublic,amongthemcriticsandacademics,seemtothinkitdoesmatter"who"wrotethetext.
Especiallyinrecentyearsthelivesofauthorshavebeenscrutinized,ashavethelivesofcitizensin
realitysoapsandtalkshows.Inthelightofthesedevelopments,IwillusethestoryoftheauthorJT
LeRoyasacasestudytoanalysethefigureofthecontemporary"author."

JTLeRoyistheauthorofthenovelsSarah(2000),TheHeartisDeceitfulAboveAllThings(2001)and
Harold'sEnd(2004).Duringapproximatelysixyears,alargereadershipofJTLeRoybelievedthat
LeRoywasateenageboy,whoasachildhadbeenpimpedoutasacrossdressedprostitutebyhis
mother.Attheageofthirteenorfourteen,LeRoywasreputedlysavedbypsychologistDr.Terrence
Owens,whoaskedhimtowritedownhisstoriesthatresultedinbrilliantlywrittenbooksona
disturbingchildhood.InFebruary2006,however,theauthorJTLeRoy,whowassupposedtobeinhis
earlytwentiesatthattime,wasunmaskedasafortyyearoldwoman,calledLauraAlbert.
OnthecoverofTheHeartisDeceitfulAboveallThings,thebookisportrayedas"aseriesofconnected
autobiographicalstories".LeRoy'sworkisnotsimplycategorizedasautobiographical,thebackcover
alsodescribeshisstyleofwritingasfollows:"onceagain,LeRoy'sfantasticalimaginationandlyricism
twistshishauntedpastintosomethingutterlystrangeandmagical."Althoughitissuggestedthathis
storiesarebasedonrealexperiences,theadjectivesthatareusedtodescribeLeRoy'sstyleofwriting
allseemclosertofictionthanreality.Firsthis"fantasticalimaginationandlyricism"arementioned,
whichevokefantasyratherthanreality,andfurthermorehispastisconsidered"utterlystrangeand
magical".AftertheunmaskingthesedescriptionsperhapsseemtobetraythedeceitoftheauthorJT
LeRoy,justasthetitleitselfTheHeartisDeceitfulAboveallThingsdoes.Yet,beforetheunmasking
ofLeRoy,theemphasisontheauthor'simaginationdidnotseemtoindicatethathisworkwas
consideredtobecompletely"imagined"stories;theimpressionwasthatitwasautobiographicalwork,
inwhichtheauthorwasabletoevokehispastinalivelyway.Orthatitwas,perhaps,anautofictional
work.
SinceLeRoy'sworkwasfirstreadasautobiographicalandnowmustbereconsideredasfiction,one
couldarguethatautobiographyisnotsomuchagenreofwriting,butamannerofreading,asPaulde
Manhasarguedinhisarticle"AutobiographyAsDeFacement"(1984).Infact,ifoneagreeswithPaul
deManthatautobiographicalwritingmightprojectitselfandproducethelifetowhichitrefers,one
coulddefineeveryautobiographyasautofictional.However,ratherthanconcentratingonhowthe
genresofautofictionandautobiographyrelate,whatthey"do"and"don't"do,instead,Iwillpursuethe
questionofhowtheunmaskingofJTLeRoyaffectstheauthor'snameJTLeRoy.
JTLeRoyisparticularlyinterestingtomebecausethestoryofhisauthorshipnotonlyshowshowthe
author'slifeisdifficulttoseparatefromhis/herwork,butalsobecausethestoryofJTLeRoydeploys
aspectsofpopularculturethathavehelpedhisbooksbecomewellknown.TheaccountofhowJT
LeRoystartedwriting,forexample,appealstotheideathatwritingishealing,andtherebyconfirmsthe
mainprinciplesofselfhelpbooksthatpropagatewritingasmedicine.Anotherrelevantissueis
LeRoy'sgender,ofwhichheisnotsurehimself,andwhichheopenlydiscussedinphoneinterviewsin
whichAlbertpretendedtobeLeRoy.Moreover,aftertheunmaskingofLeRoy,thegenderquestion
becomesmultilayered,because,asawoman,LauraAlberthadherreasonsforchoosingtohideher
identity.Hence,thegenderquestionsconcerningthefictitiouspersonaLeRoyareconnectedto
commerciallyrelatedgenderissuesintheliterarymarket.
Althoughthemajorityofliterarytheoristsoverthelastfourdecadeshaveagreedthattheintentionsand
biographyofanauthorareirrelevanttothetexteitherfollowingtheprinciplesofNewCriticismor
RolandBarthes'sandMichelFoucault'stheoryauthorsareincreasinglymarketedonthebasisoftheir
lifestory.ThefirstdocumentaryIsawonJTLeRoy,madefortheDutchtelevisionprogramR.A.M.in
2005,wasshotbeforehisunmasking.ThisdocumentarydidnotgiveinformationaboutLeRoy'sbooks
orhisstyleofwriting,butconcentratedsolelyonthelifebehindhisbooks:astoryofdrugaddiction,
prostitutionandlifeonthestreets.ByexaminingwebsitesandarticlesonJTLeRoy,Ilearntthatmost
readerswerefascinatedbyhislifestory,andmostofthequestionsdiscussedwereabouthispersonal
experiences.
UsingLeRoy'sauthorshipasaframeworkformyarticle,Iwillarguethattheboundariesbetween
(fictional)biographicalinformationabouttheauthor,andtheauthor'soeuvrearebecomingporousand
interdependent.Ifthisisthecase,Iwonderwhat,then,canbetherelevanceofseparatingauthorand
oeuvre.Thenagain,whatisatstakeinthewishtokeepthemtogether?Iwillattempttoanswerthese
questionsbyrereadingtextsbyBarthes,Foucault,PhilippeLejeuneandPauldeManwithinand

throughtheframeworkofLauraAlbert'shoax.Furthermore,IwilldiscusshowLeRoy'smixedgender
relatestothequestionofthedeadmaleauthorandthehyped"constructed"femaleauthor.

WhoistheAuthor?

Thatthefictitiousspeakerandtheauthorofanovelarenotoneandthesameseemsobvioustomost
theorists.Yet,inLeRoy'scaseitisdifficulttoseparateauthorfromnarrator.Asaresultofthe
unmasking,weknowthatLeRoyisnoneotherthanthefictitiousspeakerinhisbook.Inthetelephone
interviews,inwhichAlbertpretendstobeLeRoyusingstreetslangandimitatingaboyishvoicehe
speaksabouthislife;alifethatAlbertmadeup.Leroyfunctionsasanarratoroftheauthor;anarrator
outsidethework.ThismeansthatthewriterLauraAlbertnotonlywrotethebooksthatLeRoysayshe
haswritten,butalsothetextsthatLeRoyspokeandinwhichheclaimsthatheistheauthorofthe
books,whichmakeshispresumedautobiographicalnovelsfiction,hisauthorshipfictitious,and
himselfthenarrator.Yet,IwillarguethatLeRoyremainstheauthor.
Inthearticle"WhatisanAuthor"(1969)Foucaultmaintainsthattheauthorandthewriteraredifferent
functionsofthe"pluralityofself"(112).Heillustrateshisargumentwiththeexampleofsomeonewho
writesaprefacetoatreatiseonmathematicsandspeaksinthecourseofademonstration.Theselves
thatspeakinthesedifferentcircumstancesareneitheridenticalinpositionnorinfunction.Foucault
writesthatinthefirstcase,the"I"referstoanindividualwhocompletedacertaintask,whereasinthe
secondcase"the'I'indicatesaninstanceandalevelofdemonstrationinwhichanyindividualcould
performprovidedtheyacceptedthesamesystemofsymbols"(112).Athirdselfcouldalsobelocated;
"thisselfissituatedinthefieldofalreadyexistingoryettoappearmathematicaldiscourses"(112).
Likewise,thewriterandtheauthorareneitheridenticalinpositionnorinfunction,butaredifferent
aspectsoftheself,inwhichtheauthorfunction,accordingtoFoucault,"operatessoastoeffectthe
dispersionofthesethreesimultaneousselves"(113).Thiswouldmeanthattheauthordoesnot"refer
purelyandsimplytoarealindividual,sinceitcangiverisesimultaneouslytoseveralselves"(113).
ConcerningthewriterLauraAlbert,however,itseemsoddtoattributeJTLeRoytoherpluralityof
selves.LeRoywasbelievedtobeaseparateperson;arealindividual,alivingboy;notjustanaspectof
Albert'smultilayeredpersonhood.LeRoywasseenasalive,andappearedontelevisionnexttoLaura
Albert.NoonerealizedatthetimethatwhenLeRoyappearedinpublichewasactuallySavannah
Knoop,thehalfsisterofLauraAlbert'spartner,wearingawigandbigsunglasses.Everythingwas
stagedwiththeaimtomakepeoplebelievethattheauthorJTLeRoyreallyexisted.
However,aftertheunmasking,LeRoyloseshisrealityanddoesbecomepartofAlbert'spluralityof
self;suddenlyheisnothingmorethanaproductofherimagination.Now,Albertisthewriter,andJT
LeRoytheauthor.Doestheswitchofthepersonbehindthenameinfluencetheauthor'sname?Inorder
totakeacloserlookattheauthor'snameinananalyticalfashion,IwouldliketofollowFoucaultand
askthequestion(paraphrasingSearle1999:172):whatarethecriteriaforapplyingthenameJT
LeRoy?Foucaultanalyseshowbiographicalinformationrelatestotheauthor'snameasfollows:
If,forexample,PierreDupontdoesnothaveblueeyes,orwasnotborninParis,orisnotadoctor,the
namePierreDupontwillstillalwaysrefertothesameperson;suchthingsdonotmodifythelinkof
designation.[]IfIdiscoverthatShakespearewasnotborninthehousethatwevisittoday,thisisa
modification,which,obviously,willnotalterthefunctioningoftheauthor'sname.Butifweprovethat
Shakespearedidnotwritethosesonnetswhichpassforhis,thatwouldconstituteasignificantchange
andaffectthemannerinwhichtheauthor'snamefunctions(106).

Inthisfragment,Foucaultarguesthatthefunctionoftheauthor'snameischangedprincipallyby
alterationsinwhatweconsidertobehis/heroeuvreandnotbychangestohisorherphysicalexistence.
Hence,thenameisafunctionoftheoeuvre.WhatweconceiveofasJTLeRoy'soeuvrehasnot
changed,atleastnotinthesensethatcertainbookshavebeenfalselyincludedinhisoeuvre.Perhaps
onecouldevensaythathisoeuvreinfacthasgrownifonealsocountsallthefictitiousinterviewshe
hasgivenaspartofhisoeuvre.However,themostimportantchangeofinformationpertainstothe
authorasaperson.AccordingtoFoucaultthisdoesnotnecessarilychangethefunctionoftheauthor's
name.Yet,itisnotonlyLeroy'seyecolourthatchanges,orhisparentalhousethatisdifferent,buthe
neverexistedassuch.Heisaconstruct,aproduct,producedbysomeoneelse.
AslongasLeRoywasbelievedtoexist,hisworkcouldbedescribedasbelongingtothegenresof
autobiographyorautofiction.LeRoy'sworkandauthorshipcompliedwithPhilippeLejeune'sconcept
ofthe"autobiographicalpact"thatLejeunedescribesinhisbookOnAutobiography(1989).Inthe
autobiographicalpacttheauthorcommitstocomingtotermswithhislife,andthereadercanidentify
theauthorwiththenarratorandprotagonist.However,whentheauthorwhoclaimstopublish
autobiographicalstories,appearstobeafictionhimself,thispactthatdependsontheprincipleof
sincerityisbrutallybroken.WhereasforFoucaulttheauthor'snamewouldnotbeharmedbythenon
existingwriter,Lejeune'sapproachtotheauthor'snameinLeRoy'scasedoesnotholdup.
PauldeMan'scritiqueonLejeune'sconceptoftheautobiographicalpactcanbetakentoitsextremein
relationtoJTLeRoy:thereliterallyisnorealexistingreferentthatcorrespondstothepersonJT
LeRoy.Inhisarticle"AutobiographyAsDeFacement",DeManchallengestheassumptionthat
autobiographydependsonreference.Hearguesthatonecouldalsosuggestthatautobiographyinfact
producesthelifethatthewriterdescribes.Languageisasystemthatexistsintheabsenceofthething
towhichitrefers,andyet,itholdsoutthepromiseofreferentiality.Onecanthereforealwaysaskthe
questionifthereferentdeterminesthepicture,orifitistheotherwayaround.

FakeAutobiographies

Towhomortowhatdoestheauthor'snameJTLeRoynowrefer?SomewilltodayidentifyLeRoyby
referringtothehoax,therusesetupbyLauraAlbert.Butnoteveryoneisawareoftheunmaskingyet.
Somestillrefertohimastheyounghomelessdrugaddict.Others,whohaveheardofthehoax,prefer
tothinkthattheentirestoryofthehoaxisitselfahoax,andcontinuetobelievethatJTLeRoylives.In
eithercase,thehoaxinfluencestheimageonehasoftheauthor.Butdoesthatchangethefunctionof
theauthor'snameJTLeRoy?Hisbooksarestillhisbooks,regardlessofthefactthathedoesn'texist.
AsFoucaultargues,theauthor'snameisthesignifierthatunitestheoeuvreofthewriter,whichiswhat
turnsanumberofbooksintoanoeuvre.Evenifitisnothingmorethananame,JTLeRoystillisthe
functionalauthorofthatoeuvre,whichisconfirmedbythefactthathisbooksarestillinthepublic
domainstores,libraries,websitesunderhisname.
Hence,itisnottheauthor'snamethatisharmedorchanged,buttheperceptionoftheworkas
"autobiographical".Whereastheauthor'snameJTLeRoystillfunctionsasanauthor'sname,and
therebybreaksthesupposedautobiographicalpactthatassumesthattheauthor'snamereferstothe
"real"author;theresponsetoLeRoy'sworkshowsthatreadersinfactdidfeelpartofthispact.
AlthoughLejeune'stheoryimpliesapactbetweenwritingandreality,thepactalsoseemedtowork
withrespecttothefictionalauthorJTLeRoy,thatis,aslongashewasstillbelievedtolive.Thisisa
wrycontradiction,sinceLejeunepreciselyfocusesontherealityoftheselfthatautobiographyoffers.
ThatLeRoy'sworkhastobereconsideredasfictionideally,perhaps,shouldbeofnogreat
consequencefortheresponsetotheworkasliterature,butinrealityitisofconsiderableinfluence.The

severityoftheimpactwhenanautobiographicalpactisbrokenbyahoaxcanbeobservedinthecases
ofseveralotherwriters,whohavefakedtheirautobiography.Ineverycase,therehasbeenapublic
outcry,andmuchmediaattentiondevotedtothetopic.Forexample,whentheAmericanauthorJames
FreyadmittedthathehadfabricatedpartsofhislifestoryinhismemoirsAMillionLittlePieces
(2003),orwhentheFrenchnovelistFrdrickTristanadmittedthatDanielleSarrrawasoneofhis
pseudonyms.AnotherexampleisthebookFragments:MemoriesofaWartimeChildhood(1995)by
BenjaminWilkomirski,inwhichWilkomirskidescribeshischildhoodmemoriesofhisimprisonment
inAuschwitz.SeveralhistoriansaredoubtfulifWilkomirski,whoserealnameappearedtobeBruno
Wilkomirski,canhavelivedthroughtheextraordinaryviolencehewritesabout,andwhichheonly
rememberedatalaterage.Thisbookcausedadebatearoundthequestionifanovelcanbetruthful
withoutbeingfactual(seealsoMaechler,2001).
Sarrra'scaseinparticularisreminiscentofJTLeRoy's.SarrrawasbelievedtobeayoungFrenchgirl
whowrotedarkeroticstoriesandcommittedsuicidewhenshewasseventeen.Herworkwaspraised
forherauthentic"female"voice,andseveralfeministsanalysedherspecifically"feminine"style.A
coupleofyearsafterSarrra'sstorieswerepublished,however,therealwriter,Tristan,declaredthathe
hadmadeupDanielleSarrra.InherbookMaskerade(1999),XandraSchuttewritesthatthedeception
wasenormousamongtheDutchfeministtheoristswhohadanalysedSarrra'sworkandhersuicide,
describingherasavictimofamaledominatedsociety(111).Feministswhowroteaboutherwork,as,
forexample,PamelaPattynamaandSonjaHeebing,werefamiliarwithpoststructuralistphilosophyand
agreedthatwriterlyauthenticityultimatelyisimpossible.However,asSarrra'scaseshowed,the
authorcouldnotbeconsideredentirelyirrelevantforthefunctionandmeaningofatext.These
examples,aswellasthedisappointedreactionsfromreaderstotheunmaskingofJTLeRoy,infact
underscoreLejeune'sargumentthattheeffectivebeliefthataworkisautobiographical,oratleasta
sincereexpressionofitsauthor,iscrucialtotheinterpretationofabook.
Foucaultpredictedin1969that,associetychanges,theauthor'snamewilldisappearandthatwewill
nolongerhearquestionslike:"Whoreallyspoke?Isitreallyheandnotsomeoneelse?Withwhat
authenticityororiginality?"(119).Societyhasnotchangedenoughtohavegottenridofthese
questionsyet.WithrespecttoJTLeRoy,aswellasFrey,WilkomirskiandSarrra,exactlythose
questionskeptmanypeoplebusyguessinganddoingresearch.Readerswereextremelydisappointed
whenFreyadmittedthatpartsofhisturbulentlifestorywerefabricated.Andthequestionif
Wilkomirski'smemoirswereauthenticwasofgreatimportancetohistorians,aswellasforthetrue
victims,whomsomehowseemedtoberobbedoftheirownsufferingbyafictionalaccountofwhat
happenedinAuschwitz.
Theinterestintherelationbetweenauthorandtext,authorandautobiography,onlyseemstohave
grown.Why?Perhapsreadersdonotsomuchwanttoknowabouttheauthortounderstandthework
better,asliterarycriticsmostlyassume,buttolettheworkhelpunderstandthemselvesbetter.Whatwe
thinkorfeelissomehowalwaysmediatedbystoriesinbooks,films,televisionormagazines.The
judgmentsthatareformedonthebasisoftheseworksshouldthenbeverifiable,shouldresonatein
"real"life.
Contemporaryreadersseemobsessedwithfindingnewdefinitionsofidentity;lifestoriestowhichthey
canrelate.ThemannerinwhichLauraAlbertstagedLeRoy'sauthorshipcanbereadsimultaneouslyas
aflirtwithandacritiqueofthiscontemporaryinterestintheauthor.ThesaleofJTLeRoy'sbooks
profitedconsiderablyfromthehypeofautobiographicalexposure.KateDouglaswritesinherarticle
""Blurbing"Biographical:AuthorshipandAutobiography"(2001):"Publishersandcriticsagreethat,
forbetterorworse,theproductionandpopularconsumptionoflifewriting,andinterestinthe
biographicaldetailsofcontemporaryauthors,areexperiencinganotableboom"(806).Douglas
especiallyemphasisesthatautobiographicalinformationonwomenwritersishighlymarketable.But
LauraAlbertpreciselychosetodisguiseheridentityasawoman.Bydoingso,andbyinventingJT
LeRoyasacrossdressedboywhowishestobeagirl,Albertnotonlyhijackstheideaof
autobiography,butalsoplayswithrelatedgenderexpectations.


ConstructedAuthorship

ItseemslikeAlbertismoreawareofFoucaultandBarthes'stheoriesthanherteenagecreationadmits.
LeRoyappearsasaliteralexampleofBarthes'smetaphorofthe"deathoftheauthor":LeRoyliterally
doesnotexistandcanbeconsidereddead;alltheinformationonhimasapersonthereforemustbe
consideredirrelevantforthetext,becauseallthisinformationisasfictionalashisoeuvre.However,
immediatelyafterhisunmasking,readersofLeRoy'sworkincludingmyselfstartedspeculating
abouttheintentionsofLauraAlbert.WhydidsheinventJTLeRoy?Whydidshewantherbookstobe
readasautobiographicaltobeginwith?
Inhisfamousarticle"TheDeathoftheAuthor"(1968),Barthesquotesasentencefromthestory
"Sarrazine",inwhichHonordeBalzacdescribesacastratodisguisedasawoman:"ShewasWoman,
withhersuddenfears,herinexplicablewhims,herinstinctivefears,hermeaninglessbravado,her
defiance,andherdeliciousdelicacyoffeelings"(49).Barthesholdsthatwewillneverknowwhether
theselinesexpressBalzac'sopinionofwomen,orwhethertheyconformto"'literary'ideasabout
femininity",oriftheyarticulate"romanticpsychology".Hearguesthatwewillneverknowbecause
writingdestroyseveryorigin.Precedingideasorintentionsoftheauthorareofnoimportancetothe
textasitisread.Whenthetextispublished,theauthormightaswellbedead.Fromthenon,itisthe
readerwhodecideswhatthetextmayormaynotmeantoher.Thereforeonemightstillargueforthe
teenagevoiceinLeRoy'sworkifonereadsthisvoiceinthetextitself.Or,irrespectiveofthegenderof
theactualwriter,thefemalevoicecanbefoundinSarrra'stext.
Thefeministcritiqueofthedeathoftheauthorargumentwasthatpreciselyatthemomentwhen
womenandminoritiesstartedpublishing,theauthorwasconsideredtobeofnoimportance.Inher
article"FeministCriticismintheWilderness"(1981)ElaineShowalterwrotethatthetimewhen
"scientificcriticismstruggledtopurgeitselfofthesubjective,feministcriticismreassertedthe
authorityofexperience"(181).InthebookTheAcousticMirror(1988),KajaSilvermanrefinessuch
critiquebypointingoutthatBarthes'sprojectisto"replacethemaleauthorwithanandrogynous
author,"whocanbeheardthroughthebodyofthetext.Yet,SilvermanalsoarguesthattheBalzac
passagethatBarthesquotes,
stillbearsthemarkofmaleenunciation(itis,afterall,afragmentofwhatmightbecalledthe
DiscourseoftheWomanasOther),butnomalevoicecomesdecisivelyforwardtoclaimit.Thiscrisis
isprecipitatedinpartbythefactthat"she"hererefersnotto"natural"butto"artificial"orwhatI
wouldprefertocall"constructed"femininity.[]TheBarthesianfantasywouldthusseemtoturn
notonlyuponthedeathofthepaternalauthor,butuponthedeathoftheproductionofafemale
authorialvoice(193).
AccordingtoSilverman,Barthesdoespropose"thedeathofthe'paternalauthor'",somethingthat
shouldbewelcomedbyfeminists,butsimultaneouslysuggests"thedeathoftheproductionofafemale
authorialvoice"(193).Forthegenderofthevoicethatinhabitsthetext,thegenderofthepersonwho
physicallywrotethetextshouldbeinsignificant.Yet,Silvermanargues,byquotingthefragmentby
Balzac,Barthesreliesonaconstructed,artificialfemalevoice,nota"natural"femaleauthorialvoice.
OneofSilverman'sobjectivesinherreadingofBarthes'smetaphorofthe"deathoftheauthor"isa
defenceofnaturalfemininity,incontrasttoanartificialorconstructedfemininity,anobjectivethatI
findhighlyrelevantinviewofasocialcritiqueofthelossordenialoftheauthor.Nevertheless,I
wouldarguethatBarthes'sprojectisnotsomuchtoreplacethemaleauthorwithanandrogynous
author,nortoreplaceanauthorialfemalevoicewithanartificialfemalevoice,buttoreplacetheauthor
withthereader.Inthatperspective,thegenderoftheauthorisasunimportantastheintentionsofthe
authorwhenwritingthetext:itisfinallythereaderwhodetermineswhatthoughtsorgenderthetext
carries.

TheartificialconstructionoffemininitythatSilvermandescribes,however,isaconstructionthat
cannotbedenied,andisverydominantinthepublicitymaterialofwomenauthors.AsDouglasshows,
publishersappeartobeinterestedintheautobiographyofmostlyattractivewomenauthors.The
marketableinformationonwomenwritersisoftenformulatedinclichsthatclearlyconformtowhat
Silvermancallsa"constructedfemininity".InasimilarveinDouglaswritesthat
Marketersand"blurbers"offemaleautobiographieshavemadethistrendprofitablebyconstructing
womenauthorsaccordingtoenduringmythsoffemininity:womenasthehonestandtruthfulgender,or
womenasmoreselfaware,emotionallyattractive,generous,orsaintly(812).
LauraAlbertescapedthisstereotypicalportrayal,which,tobeginwith,wouldnotfitherbooks.The
receptionofthestoriesoftheboycaughtupinalifefulloflies,addictionandviolence,couldhave
beendamagedbythemythsoffemininehonestyandtruthfulness,thatcouldhavebecomepartofthe
publicitymaterialofthebook.Moreover,thebookscouldwellhavebeenviewedfromamelodramatic
moralperspective,asifAlbert,asagenerousmotherfigure,wouldhavewrittenthebooksoutofpity
forpoorhomelessdrugaddictedkids.Albertescapedthepossibilityofthisresponsebyinventingthe
youngauthorofherbooks,andbyprofilingthebooksasautobiographical.
Ininterviews,whichLeRoyinthebeginningonlydidonthephone,heoftenhadtoanswerquestions
aboutgender.LeRoywasnotsimplya"boy",hewasatransgendered,crossdressedboy/girlprostitute.
Inaninterviewabouthisbook,TheHeartIsDeceitfulAboveAllThings,JTLeRoysaid:
WhenIwroteSarah,Iwasmaleidentified,andnowI'mnot.Idon'tknowwhatIam.Soit'seasierif
peopledecideitisnotme,thenIwon'tbehelddown.Somanypeoplehaveclaimedmeastheirown,
soIguessthebestthingistoconfusethemall(NewYorkMagazine,171005).
Albertseemstocritiquetheinterestinlifestoriesfromwithinthroughremarkssuchastheoneabove:
"it'seasierifpeopledecideitisnotme."IfitdoesnotmatterwhatandwhoLeRoyreallyis,andifitis
irrelevantifheismaleorfemale,italsobecomesirrelevantifhisgenderis"natural"ornot.About
Balzac'sdescriptionofthecrossdressedman,Silvermanwrotethathisfemininitywasa"constructed",
"artificial"femininity.ForLeRoy,however,thedifferencebetweenconstructedandnaturaldoesnot
seemtoexist,oratleastdoesnotseemtomatter:Ifs/heclaimsthats/hedoesnotknowwhathis/her
"natural"genderis,s/hecannothaveanartificialgendereither.
Foucaultwrotethattheauthorwasaconstruct;atoolforthewritertouse,butofnodirectimportance
forthemeaningoftheliterarywork.However,Iwanttoconcludethattodaytheauthorhasbecomea
constructthatisofimportancetothework,becausetheconstructisbecomingpartofthework.
Publicitymaterialsforbookslargelyfocusontheauthor.Theportrayalsofauthorsarealways
constructedfromaselectionofautobiographicalmaterial,mostoftenassembledonthebasisof
commercialmotives.Everybiographyonthecoverofabookisinthissense"unnatural."Ifoneis
awareofthis,thesteptomakeapartlyorcompletelyfictitiousbiographyisnotsolarge.Theauthor's
biographyisnotsomethingthatisliterallypartofthework,suchasachapter,butinthepresentationof
thework,itispartoftheframethatcannotbeseparatedfromtheimage.
Ontheonehand,onecouldsaythattheoppositehashappenedtowhatFoucault,BarthesandtheNew
Criticswishedfor;insteadofbeingirrelevantforthework,theauthor(still)cannotbeseparatedfrom
thework.Butontheotherhand,onecouldsaythatFoucault'sprophecyispartlyfulfilled:iftheauthor
becomesasfictionalasthenovel,thequestion"whoreallyspoke?"losesitsbearing.Justasthe
differencebetweenconstructedandnaturaldoesnotseemtomatteranylongerconcerningLeRoy's,or
anybody's,gender,thedifferencebetweenfictitiousorrealbecomesdiffuseifoneknowsthatevery
author'sbiographyisaconstruct.
Author'sbiographies,justasrealitysoaps,makeusrealisethattheidentitiesalwayslargelyare
artificial,formedbymediaandthemarket.Still,preciselythoseconstructsofrealityareacceptedas
(partlyfictional)truths.Suchfictionaltruthsgenerallyarealsoacceptedinautofiction.However,
LeRoy'shoaxshowsthatthedesiretoknowtherealtruthsuddenlybecomesverypressingwhenwhat

wasbelievedtobe"real"revealsitselfaspurefiction.Peopledonotwishtoseetheauthor's
backgroundandintentionsascompletelyfictitious.Readersclearlycravea"truth"anda"reality"
behindthebook.Perhapsitisnotsomuchaquestionofchoosingbetweenoeuvreandauthor,but
betweenanartisticperspective,inwhichtheworkassuchisinterpreted,andamoralperspective,in
whichonelearnsaboutlife.However,LeRoy'shoaxshowsthatthesetwoperspectivesarerather
difficulttoseparate.

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