[DWJ] endings [was Best of 2008]

Charlie Butler charles.hannibal at gmail.com
Tue Dec 30 11:48:35 EST 2008

To say that an author's intention is immaterial or irrelevant to some
particular purpose isn't the same as declaring it invalid. I still don't
know what the latter would actually mean, nor have I yet come across an
example of it.

Certainly there are schools of criticism - notably New Criticism in some of
its more doggedly formalist incarnations - that define the business of the
critic very narrowly, as that of interpreting texts in and of themselves,
irrespective of context. Wimsatt and Beardsley's "The Intentional Fallacy"
(1946) is I suppose the classic statement of this position, and for their
purpose the intention of the author is indeed irrelevant. Most critics,
however, find that method of criticism unnecessarily and even perversely
restrictive, to judge by their practice, as do I. I think you may have been
unlucky, Lizzie, in having a bit of a dinosaur as your professor. However, I
note that he didn't declare that he knew better than Charlotte Bronte what
her intention was!


Website: www.charlesbutler.co.uk

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