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Ideas of W Wimsatt/W Beardsley, by Text

[American, fl. 1954, Professors at Yale and Temple Univerities.]

1946 The Intentional Fallacy
p.114 Intentions either succeed or fail, so external evidence for them is always irrelevant
     Full Idea: Wimsatt and Beardsley claimed that either the intention succeeded, so one does not need to look outside the work for its meaning, or the intention failed, so external evidence does not help.
     From: report of W Wimsatt/W Beardsley (The Intentional Fallacy [1946]) by Stephen Davies - The Philosophy of Art (2nd ed) 5.3
     A reaction: Actually, the external evidence may tell you much more clearly and accurately what the intention was than the work itself does. The best example may be the title of the work, which is presumably outside the work.
žI p.92 The author's intentions are irrelevant to the judgement of a work's success
     Full Idea: 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.
     From: W Wimsatt/W Beardsley (The Intentional Fallacy [1946], žI)
     A reaction: This famous proposal may have been misunderstood. Note that it is a comment about judging the work, not about understanding it. The idea allows for a work being much more successful than the author's humble intentions (e.g. Pepys).
žI p.93 Poetry, unlike messages, can be successful without communicating intentions
     Full Idea: Poetry differs from practical messages, which are successful if and only if we correctly infer the intention.
     From: W Wimsatt/W Beardsley (The Intentional Fallacy [1946], žI)
     A reaction: I am not convinced by this claim. It is plausible that a work does much more than it intends (Astaire said he danced "to make a buck"), but it is rather odd to rate very highly a work of which you have missed the point.
žI p.93 The thoughts of a poem should be imputed to the dramatic speaker, and hardly at all to the poet
     Full Idea: We ought to impute the thoughts and attitudes of the poem immediately to the dramatic speaker, and if to the author at all, only by an act of biographical inference.
     From: W Wimsatt/W Beardsley (The Intentional Fallacy [1946], žI)
     A reaction: Wrong. If in Browning's "My Last Duchess" (say), we only inferred the mind of the speaker (and his Duchess), and took no interest in Browning's view of things, we would miss the point. We might end up respecting the Duke, which would be daft.
žII p.94 The intentional fallacy is a romantic one
     Full Idea: The intentional fallacy is a romantic one.
     From: W Wimsatt/W Beardsley (The Intentional Fallacy [1946], žII)
     A reaction: Wrong. Even with those most famous of anonymous artists, the architects and carvers of medieval cathedrals, without some discernment of the purpose you won't get it. The Taj Mahal is a love letter, not a potential ice cream parlour.
žIV p.98 Biography can reveal meanings and dramatic character, as well as possible intentions
     Full Idea: The use of biographical evidence need not involve intentionalism, because while it may be evidence of what the author intended, it may also be evidence of the meaning of his words and the dramatic character of his utterance.
     From: W Wimsatt/W Beardsley (The Intentional Fallacy [1946], žIV)
     A reaction: I am very keen to penetrate the author's intentions, but I have always be doubtful about the use of biography as a means to achieve this. Most of the effort to infer intentions must come from a study of the work itself, not introductions, letters etc.