Authors' intentions, literary interpretation, and literary value

British Journal of Aesthetics 46 (3):223-247 (2006)
Abstract
I discuss three theories regarding the interpretation of fictional literature: actual intentionalism (author's intentions constrain how their works are to be interpreted), hypothetical intentionalism (interpretations are justified as those most likely intended by a postulated author), and the value-maximizing theory (interpretations presenting the work in the most favourable light are to be preferred). I claim that actual intentionalism cannot account for the appropriateness or legitimacy of some interpretations, or alternatively that it must be weakened to the point that the considerations raised by hypothetical intentionalists and value maximizers come into play. And I argue that hypothetical intentionalism either reduces to the value-maximizing theory, which provides a more accurate and clearer expression of the position than does hypothetical intentionalism, or it mistakenly attributes to hypothesized intentions the kind of force that attaches only to actual intentions.
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