Monday, February 2, 2015

The Author Isn't Everything

Intentional Fallacy is all about the point. What does a work mean? Who decides what it means? According to Wimsatt and Beardsley, it’s the reader and not the author. In their article, "Intentional Fallacy" they stated: “We argued that the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art, and it seems to us that this is a principle which goes deep into some differences in the history of critical attitudes” (468). Generally, people assume the meaning of a work (art, poem, story, etc.) is solely the creators. However, Wimsatt and Beardsley argue that this cannot be the case. According to the reading, in order to determine meaning as the author did, the critic must know everything that occurred when the creation of the piece happened.  Their mental process. The smallest thing could sway an author or artist to see something in their work that isn't necessarily obvious to anyone else. Does this mean that the piece loses meaning without the creator’s absolute authority? Nope. It just means that the critic can find an alternate meaning independent of the creator. Intentional Fallacy puts critics in a position where they need to be able to play detective in a sense to come to a conclusion on their own while looking at all the different factors that apply. Not to say that the authors intent doesn't matter, but it probably means most to them and less to a critic.

While reading this I couldn't help but think back to Studies in English and wresting with the idea of “Death of The Author”. Meaning that when you read something, basically assume the author is dead and holds no control over the text. I always thought there was one way to read things. The author almost acted like a mom telling you what to do. But by the end of that class I came comfortable with the fact that there doesn't need to be an ultimate and complete meaning. Coming to original conclusions that may go beyond the author is the fun part of theory. Intentional Fallacy reminded me of that.

My “artwork” is a drawing of a book with different thought bubbles around it. These are supposed to represent different meanings, relating back to Intentional Fallacy and the idea that there isn't one concrete meaning of anything. So in this picture, the meaning of the poetry could be heartbreak, fast paced city life, or a cat. Who knows. My drawing is simple, my art major roommate laughed at it, but just know that originally it was a lopsided stick figure. I've come a long way.


  1. We can laugh at your art major roommate when we watch her try to read Derrida later in the semester! Ha! Great artwork, and a nice explanation. You will see some ways that your understanding misses the mark a tiny bit when we read about the affective fallacy, and we learn that it's not the reader who has the power to determine meaning either. Not the author. Not the reader. So who? Stay tuned for tomorrow's class.

  2. Even if your roommate doesn't appreciate your artistic abilities, I appreciate them! Especially considering I colored in a coloring book for mine! I think your picture accurately represents the idea that there is no one correct meaning to a text that can be explained by the author. We all see different things in the same work, and I think your artwork accurately depicts the public's ownership of a piece of published work.