Can writers theorize about writing without dying?
Or, is theory best left to philosophers leaving writing to the writers?
In Degrée Zero de l’écriture, Roland Barthes breaks us up into two categories:
Ecrivants—who write about things and whose language is the means to an extra-linguistic end, to a meaning or reality which is, in a sense, ‘beyond’ the writing.
Ecrivains— who do not intend to take the reader beyond the writing but to call the attention of the reader to the activity of writing itself.
The ecrivain has ‘nothing but writing itself, not as the “pure” form conceived by an aesthetic of art for art’s sake, but, much more radically, as the only area for the one who writes’.
Thus, one might surmise that Flaubert, Zola and Ernest Hemingway are ‘écrivants’ and Proust, Joyce and Samuel Beckett are ‘écrivains’.
Barthes’s taxonomy here is closely connected with his distinction between the ‘lisible’ and ‘scriptible’ or the readerly/writerly.
Author (ecrivant) performs a function.
Writer (ecrivain) performs an activity
Are you dead yet?
Taken from A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory
By John Anthony Cuddon, Claire Preston.