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Artist’s intention

DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-M011-1
DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M011-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 18, 2019, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/artists-intention/v-1

Article Summary

W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley’s famous paper ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ (1946) began one of the central debates in aesthetics and literary theory of the last half-century. By describing as a fallacy the belief that critics should take into account the author’s intentions when interpreting or evaluating a piece of literature, they were rejecting an entrenched assumption of traditional criticism – and a natural one, since we normally take it for granted that understanding actions, including acts of speech and writing, requires a grasp of the intentions of the agent. But they were expressing an idea that has been greatly influential; it was a central claim of the ‘new criticism’, while the marginalization of the author is also a marked feature of structuralist and poststructuralist literary theory. Most of the debate over the artist’s intentions – ‘artist’ here being used as a general word for writer, composer, painter, and so on – has centred on their relevance for interpreting art works. More particularly, the question has been whether external evidence about the artist’s intentions – evidence not presented by the work itself – is relevant to determining the work’s meaning.

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Citing this article:
Taylor, Paul. Artist’s intention, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M011-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/artists-intention/v-1.
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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