Intention and Intentionality (NEMLA April 2011)

full name / name of organization: 
Josh Gang, Department of English, Rutgers Univ.
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Sixty years after the publication of Wimsatt and Beardsley's 'The Intentional Fallacy,' the problem of intention continues to haunt literary criticism. Authorial intention exists--but as literary critics, we don't generally talk about it. Looking to recent work in the history of criticism, literary theory, philosophy, and the history of ideas, this panel asks why this is the case. The theoretical justifications for discounting authorial intention--whether from Wimsatt and Beardsley, Barthes, Foucault, or de Man--have slowly faded into history. But as a practice of criticism and as a practice of teaching literature, that attitude towards intention remains
nearly as strong as it ever did. How did the intentional fallacy come to have so much critical traction? If we wanted to talk about authorial intention, how would we go about it? As critics, what might we gain or lose?

This panel seeks papers on these problems and questions. Papers need not focus on Wimsatt and Beardsley, the New Criticism
or twentieth-century literary theory. Instead, they are encouraged to look at how authorial intention has been understood during different periods; by different critical schools; by different disciplines (such as philosophy); and to bring these topics into conversation with contemporary critical practice.