William Wimsatt & Monroe Beardsley: The Intentional Fallacy

Analyzing a work of art based on external evidence will likely result in the intentional fallacy

Wimsatt and Beardsley on the Intentional Fallacy

Wimsatt and Beardsley were New Critics: The Extreme Version. In two famous co-authored essays—"The Affective Fallacy" (1949) and "The Intentional Fallacy" (1954)—these American wonder critics put out the idea that if a work of art is good enough, it will stand the test of time. A good poem is a good poem—always and forever. (This does not apply to limericks.)

First, contra the “intentional fallacy ..

How can the answer be improved?

Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley's essay “The Intentional Fallacy” (1946). Literary criticism at that time was heavily reliant on author-biography approaches, and Wimsatt and Beardsley put forward the radical idea that for literary works arguments about interpretation are not settled by consulting the oracle that is the author. The meaning of a work is not what the writer had in mind at some moment during composition of the work, or what the writer thinks the work means after it is finished, but, rather, what he or she succeeded in embodying in the work. The “affective fallacy” (from an essay published three years later in 1949) is the idea that subjective effects or emotional reactions a work provokes in readers are irrelevant to the study of the verbal object itself, since its objective structure alone contains the meaning of the work.

Wimsatt and Breadsley have made best-known accusations of fallacy found in literary criticism based on writer’s intention and reader's response

Dr Faas is well aware of the dangers of the intentional fallacy, but he has nevertheless chosen to steer very close to Hughes’s own life and ideas, alluding not only to his reading and the development of his thought but also to the circumstances of his life and the effect of private events on his poetry.

Definition of intentional fallacy - (in literary theory) the fallacy of basing an assessment of a work on the author's intention rather than on one's response to