Authorial Intent - Literary Theory - New Criticism

New Criticism

New Criticism, as espoused by Cleanth Brooks, W. K. Wimsatt, T. S. Eliot, and others, argued that authorial intent is irrelevant to understanding a work of literature. W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley wrote in their essay The Intentional Fallacy: "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." The author, they argue, cannot be reconstructed from a writing - the text is the only source of meaning, and any details of the author's desires or life are purely extraneous.

Wimsatt and Beardsley divide the evidence used in making interpretations of literary texts (although their analysis can be applied equally well to any type of art) into three categories:

Internal evidence
Internal evidence is the actual details present inside a given work. The apparent content of a work is the internal evidence, including any historical knowledge and past expertise or experience with the kind of art being interpreted that is required to understand what that work is: its forms and traditions. The form of epic poetry, the meter, quotations etc. are internal to the work. This information is internal to the type (or genre) of art that is being examined, and includes those things physically present in the work itself. Analysis of an artwork based on internal evidence never presents an intentional fallacy.
External evidence
What is not literally contained in the work itself is external to that work, including all statements the artist made privately or published in journals about the work, or in conversations, letters, and similar sources. External evidence is concerned with claims about why the artist made the work: reasons external to the fact of the work in itself. Evidence of this type is directly concerned with what the artist may have intended to do even or especially when it is not apparent from the work itself, and is an example of an intentional fallacy.
Contextual evidence
The third type of evidence concerns any meanings produced from a particular work's relationship to other art made by the same artist—including its exhibition (where, when and by whom). The use of biographical information in a discussion of an artwork does not necessarily indicate an intentional fallacy. The meaning of an artist's work may be affected by the particulars of who does the work (identity) without necessarily that interpretation as an intentional fallacy.

Thus, a text's internal evidence — the words themselves, and their meanings — is open for literary analysis. External evidence — anything not contained within the text itself, such as information about the poet's life — belongs to literary biography, not literary criticism. Preoccupation with the author "leads away from the poem." According to New Criticism, a poem does not belong to its author, but rather "it is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it. The poem belongs to the public." It is the Contextual evidence that presents the greatest potential for intentional fallacies of interpretation. Analysis using this type of evidence can easily become more concerned with external evidence than the internal content of the work.

Read more about this topic:  Authorial Intent, Literary Theory

Other articles related to "new criticism, criticism":

TSR, Inc. - Criticism
... The company was the subject of an urban myth stating that it tried to trademark the term "Nazi" ... This was based on a supplement for the Indiana Jones RPG, in which some figures were marked with "NaziTM" ...
Yoot Tower - Criticism
... The game was dismissed by some game review websites and magazines as being too much a rehash of the original SimTower ... Many wrote the game off as being basically identical to its predecessor ...
New Criticism - Important Texts
... Ransom's essays "Criticism,Inc" and "The Ontological Critic." Tate's essay "Miss Emily and the Bibliographer." Wimsatt and Beardsley's essays "The Intentional Fallacy" and " The Affective Fallacy." Brooks ...
Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism - Overview
... The object of psychoanalytic literary criticism, at its very simplest, can be the psychoanalysis of the author or of a particularly interesting character in a given work ... In this directly therapeutic form, the criticism is very similar to psychoanalysis itself, closely following the analytic interpretive process discussed in Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams ... However, more complex variations of psychoanalytic criticism are possible ...
Leslie Fiedler - Life - Teaching Career, Research, and Criticism - The Frontier, New Criticism, and The Early-1950s
... in Kenyon Review he was also named the 1956 Kenyon Fellow in Criticism ... Review was a journal often associated with New Criticism, Fiedler questioned the principles of New Criticism in his writing ... Fiedler targets New Criticism in his well-known essay Archetype and Signature ...

Famous quotes containing the word criticism:

    The visual is sorely undervalued in modern scholarship. Art history has attained only a fraction of the conceptual sophistication of literary criticism.... Drunk with self-love, criticism has hugely overestimated the centrality of language to western culture. It has failed to see the electrifying sign language of images.
    Camille Paglia (b. 1947)

    ...I wasn’t at all prepared for the avalanche of criticism that overwhelmed me. You would have thought I had murdered someone, and perhaps I had, but only to give her successor a chance to live. It was a very sad business indeed to be made to feel that my success depended solely, or at least in large part, on a head of hair.
    Mary Pickford (1893–1979)