Intentional Fallacy

This is my understanding when i tried to understand deeply what actually Wimsat and Beardsley wrote in Intentional Fallacy?? what actually Intentional Fallacy coming to the readers??

Firstly, the intentional fallacy appears when some critics have principle that the important point to understand the poem is to know the truly intention of poets. This statement is denied by Wimsatt and Beardsley that argued 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[1]. The intention of the author is not important point to judge the literary works. Thus, this principle then would reveal some differences in the history of critical attitudes. The problem of literary criticism arise when the critics do approach not qualified by their views of intention.

Intention itself means a design or plan in the author’s mind. It is revealed through their literary works expressing the feeling or thought. In many cases of literary criticism, the design or plan in the author’s mind must be obtained. If not, the readers should look for the other references to understand it. Absolutely, they go outside the poem for evidence of an intention that does not become effective in poem. It will bring to the readers getting fallacy to get the intention themselves.

There are three ways to get evidence for getting the intention of poem itself that are:

1.Internal evidence

It means that to get the evidence, the readers detect in the text itself. It is discovered through the semantics and syntax of a poem, through habitual knowledge of the language, through grammars, dictionaries, and all the literature which is the source of dictionaries, in general through all that makes a language and culture[2]. The readers just focus to the text (poem). They should determine the meaning of words in the text have been found relying on their knowledge. As a result, the intention to interpret the poem will be well done not going to be fallacy.

2. External evidence

The readers look for the evidence by going outside the text. It assumes that the evidence is not a part of the work as a linguistic fact; it consists of revelations (in journals, for example, or letters or reported conversation) about how or why the poet wrote the poem[3]. It implies that the readers must understand the intention of authors (poets) exactly.  They will not focus to their intention to interpret the meaning of text (poems). Thus, the problem arise in this situation that if the readers use the references like mentioned above to understand the intention, precisely it is going to get the fallacy of intention.

3. Intermediate evidence

The evidence is obtained from the character of authors that give and explain the meaning of the words or topics relying on the poems directly. The meaning of words is the history of words, and the biography of an author, his use of a word, and the associations which the word had for him, are part of the words history and meaning4[4]. The readers will find the certain words then defined by the authors (poets) about its meaning. Probably, they have proposes to secure a condensed expression in the poem itself (Mathiessen).  Certainly, it will provoke the readers to understand the intention of the author not from their knowledge. Thus, the fallacy of intention viewed by readers in the text itself will happen too.

In the conclusion, the intentional fallacy will happen if the readers attempt to understand the poems not from the poem itself. But they go outside the poems. While if the poets attempt to help the readers in understanding of poets’ intention through notes or other devices, sometimes it will ease in getting the fallacy of intention viewed by the readers. So, the literary criticism in poem argued by Wimsatt and Beardsley is created to judge the poem itself by not going outside the poem. If the poem has been published, automatically it belongs to public. Thus, the readers have chances to interpret the meaning of it relying on their knowledge of understanding the poem.


[1] Wimsatt W.K and Monroe C. Beardsley. “The intentional fallacy”. In twentieth century literary theory. Vassilis Lambropoulos and David Neal Miller. Newyork: State University of New York Press,1987. Pp. 103

[2] Ibid.Pp.108

[3] Ibid.Pp.108

[4] Ibid. Pp. 109

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