An Analysis of The Intentional Fallacy, by Wimsatt and Beardsley

2285 WordsJun 19, 201810 Pages
In their essay, ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ (1946), William K. Wimsatt Jr. and Monroe C. Beardsley, two of the most eminent figures of the New Criticism school of thought of Literary Criticism, argue that the ‘intention’ of the author is not a necessary factor in the reading of a text. During the time-period when they authored this essay, the commonly held notion amongst people was that “In order to judge the poet’s performance, we must know what he intended.”, and this notion led to what is termed the ‘Intentional fallacy’. However, Wimsatt and Beardsley argue that the intention, i.e., the design or plan in the author’s mind, of the author is neither available nor desirable for judging the success of a work of literary art. It…show more content…
Apart from asserting the fact that the text in itself and not the authorial intention is the main factor in understanding a text, Wimsatt and Beardsley go on to state that “the poem is not the critic’s own and not the author’s. The poem belongs to the public.” Now, if the poet/ author’s intention is the yardstick of measuring and judging the poem/text, then that implies that the poem/text is the poet/author’s and, in turn, the critic’s who is judging the poet/author’s intention and how far it has become effective in the poem/text. Wimsatt and Beardsley counter this by saying that the text is separated from the author right from the moment of its birth. It has an existence of its own in the world and in a way that is beyond the power of the author to control or to even think of controlling- it exists so that its readers can read it and examine its value. The text is written using language which is a possession of the public and is about issues which can be easily related to by human beings who are objects of public knowledge. And, every reader applies his/her own method and knowledge of the language and universal human values to assess the text they read; these methods and degree of knowledge are completely distinct from that of the author’s which constitutes the author’s intention. Thus, Wimsatt and Beardsley are not wrong in

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