The implied author is a concept of literary criticism developed in the 20th century. Distinct from the author and the narrator, the term refers to the character a reader may attribute to an author based on the way a literary work is written, which may differ considerably from the author's true personality.
The distinction from the narrator is most clear in ironic works, such as Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal: the narrator cheerfully offers his proposal that poor Irish people sell their children as food for the rich, but unlike Swift or the reader, the implied author is unaware of the horror inherent in the proposal.
Following the hermeneutics tradition of Goethe, Thomas Carlyle and Benedetto Croce, Intentionalists P. D. Juhl and E. D. Hirsch Jr. insist that the correct interpretation of a text reflects the intention of the real author exactly. However, under the influence of structuralism, Roland Barthes declared "the death of the (real) author", saying the text speaks for itself in reading. Anti-intentionalists, such as Monroe Beardsley and Roger Fowler, also thought that interpretation should be brought out only from the text. They held that readers should not confuse the meaning of the text with the author's intention, pointing out that one can understand the meaning of a text without knowing anything whatsoever about the author.
In his 1961 book The Rhetoric of Fiction, Wayne C. Booth introduced the term implied author to distinguish the virtual author of the text from the real author. In addition, he proposed another concept, the career-author: a composite of the implied authors of all of a given author's works.
Gérard Genette used the term focalization to distinguish the point of view of a work ("who sees?") from the focal position of a work ("who perceives?") In his 1972 book Narrative Discourse, he took issue with Booth's classifications (among others), suggesting three terms to organize works by focal position:
- zero focalization
- The implied author is omniscient, seeing and knowing all; "vision from behind".
- internal focalization
- The implied author is a character in the story, speaking in a monologue with his impressions; "narrative with point of view, relflector, selective omniscience, restriction of field" or "vision with".
- external focalization
- The implied author talks objectively, speaking only of the external behavior of the characters in the story; "vision from without".
Mieke Bal argued that Genette's focalizations did not describe the implied author, but only the narrator of the story.
Seymour Chatman, in his book Coming to Terms, posits that the act of reading is "ultimately an exchange between real human beings [that] entails two intermediate constructs: one in the text, which invents it upon each reading (the implied author), and one outside the text, which construes it upon each reading (the implied reader)." Because the reader cannot engage in dialogue with the implied author to clarify the meaning or emphasis of a text, Chatman says, the concept of the implied author prevents the reader from assuming that the text represents direct access to the real author or the fictional speaker. Chatman also argues for the relevance of the implied author as a concept in film studies, a position that David Bordwell disputes.
- Juhl, P. D., Interpretation: An Essay in the Philosophy of Literary Criticism, 1981 (ISBN 0691020337)
- Hirsch, E. D., Jr., Validity in Interpretation, 1967 (ISBN 0300016921)
- Barthes, Roland, "La mort de l'auteur" (in French) 1968, in Image-Music-Text, translated in English 1977 (ISBN 0374521360)
- Beardsley, Monroe, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism, 1958, 2nd ed. 1981 (ISBN 091514509X)
- Fowler, Roger, Linguistic Criticism, 1986, 2nd ed. 1996 (ISBN 0192892614)
- Genette, Gérard, "Figures III", 1972, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, translated in English 1983 (ISBN 0801492599)
- Bal, Mieke, "De theorie van vertellen en verhalen" (in Dutch) 1980, Narratology: introduction to the theory of narrative, translated in English 1985, 1997 (ISBN 0802078060)
- Chatman, Seymour, Coming to Terms: The Rhetric of Narrative in Fiction and Film, 1990 (ISBN 0801497361)
- Gadamer, Hans-Georg, Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik (in German) 1960, Truth and Method, translated in English 1989, 2nd ed. 2005 (ISBN 082647697X)
- Sumioka, Teruaki Georges, The Grammar of Entertainment Film (in Japanese) 2005 (ISBN 4845905744)
- Booth, Wayne C. (1983). The Rhetoric of Fiction (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 431. ISBN 978-0-226-06558-8. OCLC 185632325.
- Genette, Gérard (1988). Narrative Discourse Revisited. trans. Lewin, Jane E. (2nd ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 64–66. ISBN 978-0-8014-9535-9.
- Chatman, Seymour Benjamin (1990). Coming to Terms: the rhetoric of narrative in fiction and film. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-0-8014-9736-0.