"The Intentional Fallacy" Reconsidered/LA RECONNAISSANCE DE "L'AFFECTIVE INTENTIONNELLE"

By Lindong, Zhang | Canadian Social Science, March 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

"The Intentional Fallacy" Reconsidered/LA RECONNAISSANCE DE "L'AFFECTIVE INTENTIONNELLE"


Lindong, Zhang, Canadian Social Science


Abstract

People easily confuse the terms of "the intentional fallacy" and "the affective fallacy." I think when W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley first introduced the two terms, what they wanted to stress was priority of the work as the basis of critical judgment. In our process of literary analyzing, I think the author, the work, and the reader are a trinity hardly separable. The work is only an "extention" where the author's intention and the reader's meet. Still we must agree that insofar as communication is possible, there should be a considerable amount of sameness remaining between the author's intention and the reader's through the medium of the "extention".

Key Words: The intentional fallacy; The affective fallacy; Intention; Extention; Objectivity

Résumé

Les gens confondent facilement les termes de "l'affective intentionnelle" et "le sophisme affective." Je pense que lorsque WK Wimsatt et Monroe C. Beardsley introduit les deux termes, ce qu'ils voulaient souligner étaient la priorité du travail comme la base d'un jugement critique . Dans notre processus d'analyse littéraire, je pense que l'auteur, le travail, et le lecteur sont un peu separable trinité. Le travail n'est qu'une "extension" où l'intention de l'auteur et le lecteur de répondre. Cependant, nous devons convenir que dans la mesure où la communication est possible, il devrait y avoir une quantité considérable de la mêmeté restant entre l'intention de l'auteur et le lecteur de par l'intermédiaire de la «extension».

Mots Clés: Affective intentionnelle; Sophisme affective; Intention; Extension; L'Objectivité

I

Today "the intentional fallacy" has apparently become an established critical term, for we can find it in almost all books of literary terms. Its meaning, however, has often been misunderstood since W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley first introduced it in their famous essay bearing the same name as its title (1954, p. 3). In fact, there seems to be more and more people getting confused about its usage. And many fallacious ideas about this particular "fallacy" have poured into the present-day "trade market" of literary criticism.

Evidence of this term's confusing usage can be found in the various ways it is defined or explicated in some glossarial books. For instance, in M. H. Abrams' A Glossary of Literary Terms, it is simply stated that the term is "sometimes applied to what is claimed to be the error of using the biographical condition and expressed intention of the author in analyzing or explaining a work" (1957, p.22). In C. Hugh Holman's A Handbook to Literature, it is similarly said that in contemporary criticism the term is "used to describe the error of judging the success and the meaning of a work of art by the author's expressed or ostensible intention in producing it." But it is also noted therein that "Wimsatt and Beardsley say, 'The author must be admitted as a witness to the meaning of his work.' It is merely that they would subject his testimony to rigorous scrutiny in the light of the work itself (1972, p.242). Under the entry of intentional fallacy in J. A. Cuddon's A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, we read: "The error of criticizing and judging a work of literature by attempting to assess what the writer's intention was and whether or not he has fulfilled it rather than concentrating on the work itself (1998, p.330). When the same entry appears in Northrop Frye and others' The Harper Handbook to Literature we are told that it refers to "the idea that the meaning of a work can be explained by considering the author's intention, a fallacy according to the New Criticism." And we are told that critics who emphasize the intentional fallacy "are attempting to minimize the effect of too much reliance on Alexander Pope's advice, long standard in criticism: 'In every work regard the writer's end,/Since none can compass more than they intend'" (1985, p.243-44). …

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