Monday, February 2, 2015

Intentional Ignorance is Bliss: The Intentional Fallacy

I believe the intentional fallacy is the purposeful omission of context and intentions when evaluating a piece. It says that whatever the author had in mind does not matter. The historical clues of the time and place do not matter. The personal biography and influences on the author do not matter. Everything that went into making the piece does not matter. All that does matter is the final product and what wisdom the individuals glean from it: “After the author writes, the definition of that piece is neither up to the author nor the critic but instead the meaning of the piece is up to anyone that reads it”.

My piece demonstrates the intentional fallacy because as an admirer of works you cannot know what I meant by my piece. For instance you could raise many questions about why I left the face blank. Is it perhaps to show the anonymity of superheroes manifesting itself in a physical trait? Or maybe I’m saying anyone can be a superhero. Am I making a statement on the injustice of the sexualization of all genders through superheroes? Judging my work based on your/my imagined intentions and symbolism will give my piece much more credit than the “truth”. A “truth” that you can never truly know or are required to ignore to value the piece properly. “Truth” is… I just don’t like drawing faces and your wild romanticizing is giving me way too much credit. But in the end it’s the piece itself and what it evokes in the reader that matters. It’s all up to you now.

When you take the author out of the equation a lot is opened up to you as an admirer. All I can think of is the exercise and story Robin told in one of our other classes. We were reading a book about a girl who recently graduated and is given a watch from her father the day before their house burned down with her parents in it. She asked us to each come up with our own answer as to the significance of the watch. Time running out, a last ditch effort to reconnect with an estranged daughter, etc. She had done this same exercise with many classes and each class came up with amazing poetic answers that really tugged at the heart strings. However it turns out that when she asked the author for the big reveal, what was the meaning behind the watch? It was simply a gift that she thought was appropriate for a graduation. No special reason, just because it fits the occasion. Crestfallen and a little outraged it seemed everyone muttered about how much of a waste of time it was to imagine reasons for the watch. But thinking about it now in the context of the intentional fallacy I think we gained so much from that futile exercise. If we had never known the answer then the possibilities were endless and the value of the piece immeasurable. As soon as we’re given all the answers the priceless quality of a work disappears. Sometimes the author doesn’t know best.

1 comment:

  1. That is totally my favorite intentional fallacy story! I am so glad you remembered it! Remind me to talk about it in class today... We will also clarify the difference between meaning resting with the READER, and meaning resting with the TEXT, which is a distinction the New Critics really cared about...