Professor of Philosophy, Peter Lamarque is one of the most influential thinkers concerning literary theory and aesthetics. He has authored numerous books including Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art, The Philosophy of Literature, Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition: An Anthology, Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Language and Philosophy and Fiction: Essays in Literary Aesthetics.
The Intentist movement has been given permission to interview him concerning the role of authorship and intention in the production of meaning in a work. Below are the questions we have submitted. As soon as we have conducted the interview we of course will upload his answers and will be very interested in any comments!!!
- From an exegetical perspective, is the whole hermeneutical debate concerning whether intentions are relevant to a work’s meaning just a question as to whether meaning is:
a) what you want to express or
b) what you communicate?
In other words, is the debate ultimately not a theory concerning aesthetics, psychology, or literary theory, but philosophy (and even anthropology)- how have we understood meaning?
- Barthes in his seminal paper The Death of the Author says,’ The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.’
Leaving the contentious definition of a text being multiple ‘quotations’ aside, if, as it seems reasonable, our texts are ‘influenced’ by multiple conscious and unconscious sources, do we have no reliable measure to determine whether the text is authored by the writer alone?
- If, as various partial intentionalists (such as Paisley Livingston) believe, the author’s intention is only relevant if it has been successfully ‘realized’ in the work, who determines this? Is it not, the reader and therefore Barthes’ reader, or Fish’s ‘interpretative communities’ that ultimately determine meaning?
- Structuralism’s insistence on the arbitrary nature of signs has come under great fire as there are words that have universal patterns (onomatopoeic words etc), sounds that invoke universal responses ( major, minor etc) and colours that neurologically trigger the same responses. Does this mean that meaning rests not on the intention of the author, not on the reader, or even a community, but in whatever public universal qualities are in the work?
- Derrida famously said ‘There is nothing outside the text’ and neither is there a ‘transcendental signifier.’ Surely, every extrinsic (whether further work from the author’s oeuvre, or interviews, or an appeal to genre etc etc) is a further work that needs to be interpreted by the same sources ad infinitum. Therefore, are we not in an impasse, a hermeneutical circle?
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