Intentional Fallacy

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The text here presented is an essay written by William K. Wimsatt, Jr. which was included within his book named The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry published in 1954. The author introduces to us the concept of “The intentional fallacy” which describes the error of interpreting a work of art by second-guessing the intention of its author in creating it. In reading a poem the reader must lay aside all the possible intentions of the author and concentrate on the poem itself in order to understand the full meaning of it; so his focus has to be on the language used in it. Wimsatt says “The poem is not the critic’s own and not the author’s (it is detached from the author at birth […]). […] It is embodied in language, the peculiar possession of the public, and it is about the human being, an object of public knowledge.” The author cannot control the text as soon as he writes it. It becomes public. Just because a poem has a particular author, that does not mean that the recipient should be distracted by the author’s intention. He should examine the public meaning of the poem; which is accessible through the entire structure of the text. The reader should not interpret the allusion in terms of author’s intention. Wimsatt claims that the author's intended meaning is irrelevant to the literary critic. The meaning, structure and value of a text are inherent within the work of art itself; because it is an object with certain autonomy. At this point, Wimsatt establishes three types of evidences that can be used in assessing a piece of literature but these 'evidences' are not valid nor valuable for literary criticism. The first one, the 'internal evidence', is that which can be taken from the poem in and of itself without outside assistance. We find it out “…through all that makes a language and culture”. Internal evidence, then, comprises elements of the structure of the text. Examining the internal components of a work is the key to understanding not just by...
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