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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Authorial Intentions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1957  Tuesday, 24 September 2002

From:           Matthew Baynham <
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Date:           Sunday, 22 Sep 2002 11:01:42 +0100
Subject:        Authorial Intentions

I tend to think that Annalisa Kamaralli's version risks overstatement.
With regard to the history of criticism of Measure, for example, one
important strand is the notion of the play, in whole or in part, as a
Christian allegory. One may or may not accept that interpretation, but
it is difficult to see how there can even be meaningful discussion of it
if the idea of the author's intention is eliminated. The concept of
allegory seems indispensably to connote the concept of authorial
intention. I find it difficult to think it right that the literary genre
of allegory (which certainly does predate Shakespeare) can be dismissed
a priori in this way.  I would certainly tend to call such a conclusion
'reductive'.

Or take another exception: I don't quite understand how the scholarly
work which has revised our opinion of the two versions of King Lear
could have been done without some consideration of the intention of the
author in rewriting, cutting and revising his work.

I tend to arrive at a formulation something like this:

The intention of the author can never be fully and reliably recovered
and is of no decisive value in describing the effect or effects of a
text.  However, it is a proper subject of scholarly enquiry, which may
illuminate some aspects of how the text has come to have the effects it
does.

It is perhaps worth saying that such a formulation need not tend to
Bardolatry. In Measure, I tend to want the category of authorial
intention to explain why the thing goes wrong!

I would be very interested to hear what others suggest to their students
on this.

Matthew Baynham

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