Monroe Beardsley: Intentional Fallacy and Affective Fallacy

Monroe Beardsley (1915-1985) was a prominent American literary critic, hailing from Bridgeport, Connecticut. He received his education at Yale University, where he earned a B.A. in 1936 and a Ph.D. in 1939, winning the prestigious John Addison Porter Prize.

Beardsley taught at several institutions, including Mount Holyoke College and Yale University. His wife, Elizabeth Lane Beardsley, was also a philosopher at Temple and occasionally collaborated with him on writing.

Intentional Fallacy

Beardsley is known for two influential essays, "Intentional Fallacy" and "Affective Fallacy." The "Intentional Fallacy" argues that a work of art should not be evaluated based on the author's intention or what the author had intended. In other words, the work should be liberated from the influence of the author's authority. The text should stand independently without being bound by the author's biography or personal details.

By rejecting the intentional fallacy, Beardsley allows for a freer and uninhibited readership, detached from the details of the author's life. Readers are encouraged to evaluate the text as an object in itself, without being constrained by external sources, such as documents related to the author's life.

Affective Fallacy

The "Affective Fallacy" states that a work of art should not be evaluated based on the emotional response it evokes in the reader. It cautions against reading a text with sentimental bias and argues for a more intellectually informed readership.

Readers should approach the text with critical distance, free from the desire to impose their emotions on the meaning within the text. The act of reading should be based on intellect rather than emotional attachment.

Liberalizing Reading

Both the Intentional and Affective Fallacies seek to liberate the reading of a text from preconceived notions and external influences. According to these theories, reading should be an intellectual pursuit, detached from sentiments or political considerations.

These ideas stand in contrast to the approach of New Historicism, which considers a text inseparable from historical context. Beardsley's theories emphasize a reading experience based on intelligence and a focus on the text itself.

Notable Works

Monroe Beardsley's notable works include:

  • Practical Logic (1950)
  • Aesthetics: A Short History (1966)

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