Wimsatt and Beardsley on the Intentional Fallacy

Terms for the critical methods they opposed in this essay: romantic criticism, biographical criticism, genetic criticism (AKA "source-hunting").  They allege that these methods begin "by trying to derive the standard of criticism from the psychological causes of the poem and [end] in biography and relativism" (from the introduction to "The Affective Fallacy").  [345]

Judging a poem is like judging a pudding or a machine.  One demands that it work. [ . . . ]  Poetry is a feat of style by which a complex of meaning is handled all at once.  Poetry succeeds because all or most of what is said or implied is relevant; what is irrelevant has been excluded, like lumps from pudding and 'bugs' from machinery.  In this respect poetry differs from practical messages, which are successful if and only if we correctly infer the intention.  They are more abstract than poetry.  [335]

The poem is not the critic's own and not the author's (it is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it).  The poem belongs to the public.  It is embodied in language [and] is an object of public knowledge.  [335]

. . . the way of objective criticism of works of art . . . enables us to distinguish between a skilful murder and a skilful poem.  A skilful murder is an example which Coomaraswamy uses, and in his system the difference between murder and the poem is simply a 'moral' one, not an 'artistic' one, since each if carried out according to plan is 'artistically successful.  We maintain that [asking "whether the work of art ' ought ever to have been undertaken at all' and so 'whether it is worth preserving'"] is an inquiry of more worth than [asking "whether the artist achieved his intentions"], and since [the former] and not [the latter] is capable of distinguishing poetry from murder, the name 'artistic criticism' is properly given to [the former].  [336]

Criticism is "the public art of evaluating poems" and requires "terms of objectification"--"The evaluation of the work remains public; the work is measured against something outside the author."  [338]

. . . author psychology can be historical too, and then we have literary biography, a legitimate and attractive study in itself . . . Yet there is danger of confusing personal and poetic studies; and there is the fault of writing the personal as if it were the poetic.  [339]

There is a difference between internal and external evidence for the meaning of a poem.  [Public internal evidence of the meaning of the poem] is discovered through the semantics and syntax of a poem, through our habitual knowledge of the language, through grammars, dictionaries, and all the literature which is the source of dictionaries, in general, through all that makes a language and culture; while what is . . . external is private or idiosyncratic; not a part of the work as a linguistic fact: it consists of revelations (in journals, for example, or letters or reported conversations) about how or why the poet wrote the poem--to what lady, while sitting on what lawn, or at the death of what friend or brother. There is . . . an intermediate kind of evidence about the character of the author or about private or semi-private meanings attached to words or topics by an author or by a coterie of which he is a member.  The meaning of words is in the history of words, and the biography of an author, his use of a word, and the associations which the word had for him, are part of the word's history and meaning. [339]

. . . every rule for a poet is but another side of a judgment by a critic . . .   [341]

Re: Eliot's "notes" to "The Wasteland": Ultimately, the inquiry must focus on the integrity of such notes as parts of the poem . . . the notes may look like unassimilated material lying loose beside the poem, necessary for the meaning of the verbal context, but not integrated so that the symbol stands incomplete.  [342-43]

Re: authors' stated opinions about what their works do or do not mean: Critical inquiries are not settled by consulting the oracle.  [344]

Link to "concordances" list--use these, in addition to the O.E.D.,  to explore "[an author's] use of a word, and the associations which the word had for him" [339].