July 03, 2004

The Intentional Fallacy Fallacy

To assume that an author's intent is the final determinant of what a text means is to commit the intentional fallacy, an act that is almost universally denigrated these days. As a frequent writer of technical documentation, I'm well aware that what I write doesn't always say what I meant it to say--but when the error is pointed out, I generally admit to the error and go back and fix it. In the arena of fiction, however, it doesn't seem to work that way; the author's intent is less important than the meaning the reader reads into the tale. There are a number of reasons for this, I guess, not least because reading any meaning into a narrative beyond the bare facts of the story is fraught with peril. But it's possible to stretch opposition to the intentional fallacy too far, and say that the author's intent has nothing to do with the meaning of the text, a position which is clearly absurd. And that's the topic of one of the Forager's latest posts, which you should go read. Posted by Will Duquette at July 3, 2004 11:45 AM