Monday, February 2, 2015

The Author Doesn't Have the Authority

The basic understanding of the intentional fallacy is that the author is not all powerful when it comes to a piece of literature. Although, as readers, we look to the author for an ultimate explanation of a piece of literature, this does not help us gain a better understanding of the piece. We are equipped with all the necessary tools from an understanding of language and context in order to understand a piece of work without the author. Once an author puts their work into the world, they give up their ownership of it. As Wimsatt and Beardsley put it in their article, "The Intentional Fallacy", a piece of work "is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it" (p. 470). Basically, the what the author has to say about his work has no bearing on how the critic analyzes and understands it, as "critical inquiries are not settled by consulting the oracle" because the critic can understand the work as it exists, separate from the author (p. 487).

When thinking about a way to represent the intentional fallacy, I thought of one of my favorite things, a coloring book! (I may or may not be a kindergartener at heart). Someone created the black and white outlines of the pictures contained within the activity book, but they gave up their vision for the final image when they published it. It doesn't matter if the artist pictured their castle being colored to have red flags and brown towers, because the public fills the empty outlines with their own colors. You don't need to know what the artist's final vision for the picture was in order to understand that it is a castle and know to fill it in with color. If the artist did his job well, you don't need to know his thought process to recognize and understand his work.

The intentional fallacy is the mistake we all make when assuming that the creator of a piece of work holds all the answers, when in reality, we, the readers, hold the answers. After considering the meaning of it, I found that the intentional fallacy can apply in many different areas of life. One of the most prominent things that came to mind for me was social media. Once you tweet or put a picture on Instagram, you relinquish your power over your words and pictures. They are permanently on the Internet for the public do do what they want with them. Are there other areas of life where the intentional fallacy could apply for you? Think about it!

1 comment:

  1. Kendal, this post is just FULL of useful metaphors: the coloring book, the social media stuff-- I hope I remember to mention these in class, since I think they are illuminating. But I cannot endorse you coloring inside the lines like that...ha ha...