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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: September ::
Authorial Intention
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0635  Friday, 24 September 2007

[1] 	From: 		Sally Drumm <
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	Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 11:32:11 -0400
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0623 Authorial Intention

[2] 	From: 		Cary DiPietro <
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	Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 18:23:40 -0400
	Subj: 		RE: SHK 18.0628 Authorial Intention

[3] 	From: 		Colin Cox <
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	Date: 		Friday, 21 Sep 2007 10:54:45 -0700
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0623 Authorial Intention


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Sally Drumm <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 11:32:11 -0400
Subject: 18.0623 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0623 Authorial Intention

 >I personally do not see
 >a meaningful distinction between saying that an author expected the
 >audience to react in a particular way and saying that he wanted them to
 >do so.  As I said above, I also do not see a difference between
 >interpreting a text and determining what the author expected us to
 >understand from the text.

This is to say that there is no difference in meaning between 
implication and inference. Expectation, intention, and interpretation 
represent three legs of the Apollonian stool, on which balances truth 
and lies, fact and fiction, justice and injustice. These three legs can 
also be equated to the three points of the rhetorical triangle.

There is absolute difference in meaning between intention, 
interpretation, and expectation just as there is absolute difference 
between meanings of the points of the rhetorical triangle, and in fact, 
it could be argued that intention, interpretation, and expectation, 
correspond directly to those points.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Cary DiPietro <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Sep 2007 18:23:40 -0400
Subject: 18.0628 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0628 Authorial Intention

Larry Weiss writes, "If we take the distinction [between intention and 
meaning] as being the difference between what the author expected us to 
understand and what we in fact do understand from the text, then the 
latter is equivalent to Cary DiPietro's 'implied [or inferred] author' 
and there is no need for that construct."

Alan Horn then quotes Gerard Genette in response to the idea of the 
implied author (IA):  "So IA [the implied author] seems to me, in 
general, to be an imaginary[...] agent constituted by two distinctions 
that remain blind to each other: (1) IA is not the narrator, (2) IA is 
not the real author, and it is never seen that the first is a matter of 
the real author and the second is a matter of the narrator, with no room 
anywhere for a third agent that would be NEITHER the narrator NOR the 
real author."

Alan then paraphrases:  "In other words, the term "implied author" 
sometimes refers to the narrator and sometimes to the real author, 
depending on the point that is being made. In itself it is a superfluous 
and confusing category."

I'm not familiar with Genette, but your paraphrase here, Alan, is 
clearly incorrect.  The point that Genette is trying to make is that the 
IA is produced by two negations (not the narrator, not the author) that 
"are blind to each other", or in other words, the two negative positions 
are never brought together to produce a third 'agent' that is neither 
the narrator nor the real author at the same time.  At no point does 
Genette here suggest that the IA is ever taken to mean the narrator 
(because obviously ludicrous, and I challenge you to find a narrative 
theorist who makes that claim) or the author (because that's the point). 
In any case, there are no narrators in Shakespeare.  Really, we ought to 
be making the distinction here between author and dramatist, and between 
the text as read and the text as realized in the collaborative and 
ephemeral moment of performance.  If we were hardcore narratogolists, we 
would be wrangling over the distinction between diegesis and mimesis in 
our discussion of intention.

In any case, I would like to wrangle with Genette's semantics to argue 
that no narrative theorist would claim that an IA is an 'agent' of the 
text, or has, in any sense, agency.  Agency lies in the act of 
interpretation, and in the act of ascribing intention to that 
sensibility that the interpreter perceives to be the author. The 
inferred or implied author is a construction, one whose relationship to 
the real author (an infinitely variable and intractably complex 
historical being) can never be finally determined, but a relationship 
that is nonetheless a source of endless, sometimes wonderful, 
occasionally humorous, and often infuriatingly inaccurate, speculation 
(I'd really like that to be the tagline for "Will in the World").

Why is the distinction between implied author and real author necessary? 
  Precisely for the purpose, Larry, of not confusing intention with 
meaning, or at least remaining conscious of the conflation, in the 
moment of interpretation.  To adopt the argument of 'intentional 
fallacy' while continuing to argue that texts produce fixed meanings 
that, through careful intelligent analysis, we can discover or reveal, 
is merely to foster a notion of intention by another name (for example, 
the author's 'expectations').  Any interpretation that begins with a 
belief in the wholeness of meaning in the work (any kind of formalist or 
structuralist analysis) must necessarily assume the wholeness of 
intention behind the work.  Again, this is basic narrative theory.

Narratology is, among other things, an attempt to theorize and 
systematize the many different kinds of textual interpretation that we 
all practice and teach, whether formalist or intentional, symptomatic 
(to mean, interpretive methodologies such as materialism or feminism 
that seek to explain the 'symptoms' that give rise to the text, and that 
assume that textual meaning is determined not by a wholeness of 
intention, but by disparate and often conflicting material relations 
that result in textual 'faultlines', to use Alan Sinfield's term) or 
adaptive (to mean, acknowledging the fact of our own subjectivity as 
interpreters, the symptomatic conditions of our own interpreting 
process, and, therefore, the degree to which all interpretations are, to 
some degree, recreations or adaptations of the text).

I wouldn't want to suggest that an intentional interpretation does not 
have some social value.  How pedantic a class in Shakespeare would be if 
I couldn't ask questions such as, "What does Shakespeare mean here?", or 
"What does a close analysis of rhetorical figures reveal about the 
meaning of the passage?".  If narrative theory has any value for our 
discussion here, it's in demonstrating the utility of dialogue between 
differing interpretive methodologies, and that they can be usefully, 
however cautiously, combined.

Having said that, 'truth claims' about the meaning of the text or about 
one interpretive system over another are to some extent inevitable; they 
need to be in the case of more politicized readings.  I'm not going to 
launch into a defense of any particular textual methodology here, but I 
would argue that some of the most interesting attempts to interrogate 
the perceived or actual relationship between intention and meaning in 
the drama, and especially in Shakespeare, are ongoing in studies of 
bibliography, performance theory and, you guessed it, presentism.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Colin Cox <
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Date: 		Friday, 21 Sep 2007 10:54:45 -0700
Subject: 18.0623 Authorial Intention
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0623 Authorial Intention

Larry Weiss makes the comment:

 >I personally do not see a meaningful distinction between saying that an
 >author expected the audience to react in a particular way and saying 
that he
 >wanted them to do so.

As a playwright, with four pieces of work currently touring the United 
States, I perceive a very 'meaningful difference' between 'expectation' 
and 'want.'

You can want an audience to do whatever you want; they're never going to 
do it. Nor, in my estimation of good playwriting, should you 'want' them 
to do anything. Years of experience, on the other hand, brings you an 
expectation of what an audience will do. Though, thousands upon 
thousands of performances later, my experience of expectation is that 
'expectation' is a very distant cousin to 'certainty'. At best, I 
believe a playwright and again, to me, the mark of a good playwright, 
'hopes' that the audience will utilize the words arranged on the page 
and manifested, as a 'perceived reality,' by the actor on the stage to 
examine their own beliefs, expectations and wants regarding the 
'observation' the playwright has placed upon that stage for their perusal.

I believe William Shakespeare to be the master, not wanting an audience 
to do anything, having an uncertain expectation that they will, and, 
ultimately, hoping they will make his play their own. Hence, it is my 
hope, and expectation, that you will want to agree with me that he is 
the greatest playwright in the history of the written, English word. I 
am far from certain of the outcome.

Colin Cox

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