Intention

“What was your intention when writing this book?”
“What did you mean by the passage on page 108?”
“What did you want the reader to feel at the end?”
“What message did you intend the book to deliver?”

Authors of novels, especially novels for children, know that questions such as these are not uncommon. This might be surprising, in view of the fact that more than sixty years have gone by since William K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley published their famous essay “The Intentional Fallacy” (1946), except that somehow it isn’t surprising at all to find that lengthy and passionate discussion among literary critics has not the slightest influence on the way most readers read most books. Clearly, for many readers, the author’s intention still does matter, and getting it right, or at least not reading against this supposed intention, is an important part of the satisfaction, or perhaps …

This essay may be found on page 129 of the printed volume.

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