Professor of Comparative Literature Peter J. Rabinowitz has published “‘The Absence of Her Voice from that Concord’: The Value of the Implied Author” in a special issue of Style. The essay is an expansion and refinement of a paper originally given at the International Conference on Narrative in Birmingham, England, in 2009.
In the article, Rabinowitz points out that the primary attacks on the notion of the implied author fail because they are grounded in excessively abstract theoretical positions that are divorced from the practical concerns of actual readers. In mounting his defense of the concept, Rabinowitz calls on two interrelated principles. The first is a literary analog to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem: literature always exceeds the theories we develop to explain, evaluate, and interpret it. The second is what he calls the PROUST principle: Practice Rigorously Outranks Universal Schemas and Theories.
He goes on to demonstrate how, despite a certain theoretical ambiguity at its core, the concept of the implied author remains useful for answering a variety of questions about a wide range of artistic works, from Stendhal’s The Red and the Black to Shostakovich’s Song of the Forests, from the Nancy Drew novels to Nabokov’s Lolita.