Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Intentional Fallacy and Authorial Intent

It is sometimes suggested that the article of William K. Wimsatt, and Monroe C. Beardsley, ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ Sewanee Review 54 (1946): 468-488, reprinted in William K. Wimsatt, The Verbal Icon. (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1954), 3-18, has advocated the view that authorial intention is unknowable or irrelevant in understanding a text.  However, a careful reading of this piece notes that these authors are not suggesting that authorial intention be dismissed in reading any kind of text, but more specifically in reading poetry.  In fact, regarding the reading of other texts, they specifically state that “poetry differs from practical messages, which are successful if and only if we correctly infer the intention.”  They thus agree that authorial intention is important for the understanding of texts generally, with the noted exception of poetry.  It is thus ironic that some authors have missed their communicative intent and thus misrepresented their thesis. 
The irony is delicious.

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