In this master essay, Wimsatt and Beardsley call out readers who just go through texts hoping to figure out what their authors really meant. According to these. In Aesthetics, Beardsley develops a philosophy of art that is sensitive .. In “The Intentional Fallacy,” he says that the intentions of the artist are. Intentional Fallacy. William K. Wimsatt Jr. & Monroe C. Beardsley., revised in. The claim of the author’s “intention” upon the critic’s judgement has been chal-.

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Summary of Love is a F Intentiinal of A Rehabilit A summary of Catch Me A Summary of Themes of A summary of the physi Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Reading a poem, one may contemplate the author’s intention for his piece of work: Assumptions such as these are what W.

Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley consider fallacies when reading literature.

In “The Intentional Fallacy,” Wimsatt and Beardsley claim that in order to understand the full meaning of a text, one must lay aside all possible intentions of the author and concentrate on the text itself. Although a literary work has an individual author, that fact should not distract the reader from exploring the public meaning accessible through the organic structure of the text. In addition to claiming that one should reject the idea of an author’s intention in order to attain an understanding, Wimsatt and Beardsley also affirm that “[t]he poem is not the critic’s own and not the author’s” Rather, it becomes the public’s at its birth because it exists for others to examine: Readers inevitably apply standards distinct from the author’s to the study of literature in order to articulate its truth.

Thus, Wimsatt and Beardsley argue, to discover this meaning the reader should discard any concern about the author’s intentions or reasoning.

Instead, the reader should use and rely upon his or her knowledge of linguistics and literary elements to form a conclusion concerning the thematic focus and unity of the work. Beardsleyy and Beardsley assess three possible beardsleh of evidence that can be used to interpret literature and explain how these three types are not equally valuable or valid for literary criticism.

The first most reliable and most accessible type of evidence for the meaning intntional a piece of literature is “internal” evidence that is “discovered through the semantics and syntax” of the work Such evidence may take the beardsldy of certain images or motifs, for example. Internal evidence, then, is not only found within the text itself but it also comprises elements of the structure of the text.

Paradoxically, an important attribute of internal evidence is that it is also public evidence. Because a literary work’s language, semantics, grammar, and imagery are public knowledge and available to the common reader, this internal evidence is of particular value in discovering the meaning determined by the text. The critical reader’s analysis or evaluation of this evidence is open to verification or debate by other readers.

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From a formalist perspective, then, examining a work’s internal components is the key to understanding not just by the individual reader but more importantly by the collective public.

The second type of evidence defined by Wimsatt and Beardsley fallacy “external” to the text. Like internal evidence, this material can also be available for observation.

Authorial intent

However, because such observation does not involve assessing the form of a work, such evidence is not “a part of the work as a linguistic fact” As a result, it is less accessible and less valuable. Beeardsley evidence could include a writer’s journal, manuscripts, correspondence, or reported conversation. It could also include historical information or background about the time period or culture when a piece of literature was produced.

If a reader-researcher uncovers such information and uses it to define intentionall meaning of a literary work, for Wimsatt and Beardsley that meaning is essentially a private revelation of limited public validity.

Such critical interpretation is based upon private, idiosyncratic knowledge. Lowes’ extensive study of the sources of imagery and language in Coleridge’s poem exhibits one version of the Intentional Fallacy.

Although this material may have appeared before “Kubla Khan,” say Wimsatt and Beardsley, this origin “can never be and need not be known in the verbal and hence intellectual composition which is the poem” Moreover, discovering such sources of literary material in the personal or cultural life of the author provides little or no aid to understanding the meaning of the poem.

A third type of literary evidence also derives from the “private” experience of the writer but since it can aid an understanding of beardsey linguistic facts of literature, Wimsatt and Beardsley term it “intermediate” evidence.

This evidence is “about the character intentionall an author or about private or semiprivate meanings attached to words or topics by an author” Beradsley biographical information doesn’t necessarily entail intentionalism; instead it may clarify the meanings of the words, the nuances of imagery, within the literary text. Knowing how an author is apt to use a word or beardlsey may be beneficial in finding unifying structures and themes in a piece of literature.

A Critical Summary of intentional fallacy_百度文库

Being aware of how the word s work for an author may give the reader a better understanding of how the word s work in the text. Yet Wimsatt and Beardsley again warn of the danger of such material distracting from or distorting the more primary internal evidence of a text. Because intermediate evidence is so similar to external evidence; the two will sometimes overlap, making it difficult to distinguish between them.

A John Donne poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” illustrates this danger. In one quatrain of the poem, Donne uses astronomical language that may reflect changing Renaissance attitudes toward science.


A critical reader may be tempted to use this reflection to argue that the poem is in a sense “about” Donne’s interest in the new science of the Renaissance, or about the changing worldview of the Renaissance. Although Donne’s familiarity with new astronomy might add a bit more meaning to the stanza, to make the “geocentric and heliocentric antithesis the core [meaning] of the [poem’s] metaphor is to disregard the English language” The poem may hold a private theme for Donne, but this personal quality should not constitute or delimit the public theme and meaning for the reader.

Building intengional their discussion of the challenges of reading Donne’s poem, Wimsatt and Beardsley conclude their essay by assessing more generally the challenge of responding beafdsley allusions encountered in literature. In a sense, attempting to learn what a particular image is alluding to falllacy an attempt to find out the author’s intention. This may be the case especially when authorial notes accompany a text as they do with T.

Beardsley’s Aesthetics

Eliot’s “The Waste Land”. If not careful, these notes can become external evidence. A reader may be mislead into going outside of the original text in order to gain information that may or may not reveal the author’s intention. If one gathers from notes that an author is alluding to a specific event, then the reader may turn faklacy trying to interpret the work in the context of the author’s intentions. It is for this reason that Wimsatt and Beardsley argue that if such notes or allusions generally are acknowledged by the critical reader they “ought to be judged like any other parts of composition” If in the process of beagdsley a reader is able to identify and understand the allusion, then the reader will perhaps be able to add a layer of meaning onto what he already knows.

However, if allusions are not recognized, the text will still convey meaning to the reader. That a reader may overlook an allusion and still acquire its significance illustrates that primary experience of literary meaning derives from the internal evidence of form and structure.

The Intentional Fallacy, according to Wimsatt and Beardsley, grows out of a romantic aesthetic dealing with “private,” idiosyncratic elements of literary composition.

In the public realm of criticism, though, there is not room for such an approach. Instead, the critical reader must look to a text as a self-defining work that is unified by a variety of literary elements. Such an formalist approach makes literary meaning accessible to any reader. It is the reader’s job to uncover the truth of literature not by “consulting the oracle”but by looking carefully at the internal fallscy of the text’s form.