Study Guide

Wimsatt and Beardsley Social Media


In their aptly named Hateful Contraries: Studies in Literature and Criticism, Wimsatt and Beardsley unloaded a bucket of butt-whooping on the respected American critic Leslie Fiedler, accusing him of "Amateur Criticism" and criticizing him for his "passionate commitment to not having any commitment." Ouch. (Source.)


Wimsatt and Beardsley's arguments in "The Intentional Fallacy" were neither totally original nor the last word on the subject. T.S. Eliot had a few choice words on the subject in his essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1919), and even Oscar Wilde put his two cents in in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). (Source.)


Plenty of critics disagreed with Wimsatt and Beardsley that nothing exists "outside of context." Imagine that. Colin Lyas, in his essay "Anything Goes: The Intentional Fallacy Revisited," cried foul on their idea and even questioned "whether any attributions of properties are interpretation free and inference free." (Source.)


For those of you who had to make a triple extra flaming hot espresso to wade through all of Wimsatt and Beardsley's ideas about authorial intent, be aware that these ideas have long stirred people into a frenzy, and according to one random source, they are "hotly debated" to this day. (Source.)


Wimsatt may very well have rested in a little more in peace when the famous Harvard professor Jonathan Culler declared in 1981: "In a sense, whatever critical affiliations we may proclaim, we are all New Critics now, in that it requires a strenuous consciousness of effort to escape notions of the autonomy of the literary work, the importance of demonstrating its unity, and the requirement of 'close reading.'" Lucky for Beardsley, he was still alive to hear these words of celebration and vindication. Take that Deconstructionists and New Historicists. (Source.)

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