The journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Volume 72, problem 4, November 2014, Pages 379–391,
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I argue that once we analyze a literary work, we communicate with at least two various kinds the meaning, every requiring a distinct mode that interpretation. These kinds of meaning are literary ranges of what Paul Grice called nonnatural and also natural meaning. The lengthy standing conflict that began with Beardsley and Wimsatt"s strike on the knowingly fallacy is, i argue, yes, really a debate around nonnatural definition in literature. I complete that natural meaning has been largely neglected in ours theorizing about literary interpretation and that this comes at a significant cost, leading to an poor account the what interpretation involves. I argue, first, the by recognizing the literary meaning includes both nonnatural and also natural meaning, us are far better placed to recognize the interpreter"s relationship with the author, and, second, that acknowledgment of the distinction between nonnatural and natural an interpretation advances the developed debate about literary meaning, providing support for actual intentionalism. The more inclusive watch of literary meaning helps fix an apparent an obstacle raised by Noël Carroll.

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There is a propensity in theorizing about literary interpretation to i think that as soon as interpreters connect with the an interpretation of a literary work, they space invariably pertained to with attributes of the work-related that have been inserted there to be interpreted. On this assumption, the interpreter is constantly concerned with concerns such as: (a)whether a word, phrase, or passage in the work-related is ironic, a joke, metaphorical, allegorical, or one allusion come something;


whether the sound or structure of the language is being offered to produce a specific artistic/aesthetic effect;


whether (in the case of a stare work) the narrator is a trusted authority as to what is really happening in the story; or


what literary genre the work, taken as a whole, belongs to—realism, parody, allegory, and so forth.

When we think of interpreting a novel, poem, or play, the is the translate of attributes like this that instantly comes come mind. For this reason we have the right to understand the tendency, in theorizing about literary interpretation, to emphasis primarily on purposely meaningful elements of literary works.

It was definition of this kind that Monroe C. Beardsley and also William K. Wimsatt were pertained to with as soon as they set in activity a lengthy standing debate around whether or no the interpreter the a literary job-related should translate the job-related in the way the writer intended.1 In due course, that question raised more questions around how notions favor ‘the author’ and ‘the plan meaning’ need to be understood. Is the writer the actual author or an include or postulated figure? have to the intentions attributed to this “author” be regarded as the genuine author"s actual intentions or as theoretical intentions giving the best or most satisfying account of the job-related when regarded in its historical and cultural context?

In later sections the this article I will return to these debates around literary meaning, yet my an initial and key purpose is come argue that there is also another quite different kind of definition that interpreters engage with in the process of coming to understand a literature work, and that this has been mostly neglected in our theorizing around literary interpretation. I maintain that an exclusive emphasis on the sort of meaning targeted by questions (a) come (d) is not just mistaken however comes at a severe cost. It leaves out vital dimension of meaning, and it skews the recurring debate about the sort of intentional definition that the established conflict does recognize and also seeks come clarify.

In this short article I single out one other important mode that interpretive task in particular. In act so, I draw on Paul Grice"s distinction between nonnatural and also natural meaning, making use of Grice in what ns think is a different way from others who have attracted on his job-related in do the efforts to concerned grips with literary meaning.2 Intentional meaning is a kind of Gricean nonnatural meaning, and I usage his analysis to more clarify this kind of definition and the interpretive activity that engages v it. Ns compare and contrast this type of definition in literary works (and its linked mode the interpretation) with natural an interpretation in literary works (and the means we translate it). When the writer of (let united state say) a novel goes about composing she narrative, she will certainly intentionally set out to convey certain meanings and also effects, but her performance together a writer will additionally arouse our interest in means she has not specifically intended. Us might, because that example, notice how her propensity to use a details kind that imagery or the kinds of characters she choose to write around or the means she handles the moral concerns she raises unintentionally tells united state something around her personality together a writer. When we translate this dimension of significance in a literary work, we execute not seek to master the author"s functions from the inside yet to recognize what the or she has done indigenous an live independence perspective. What is carried into play here is, ns argue, a kind of meaning different native intentional meaning, calling for a various kind the interpretive activity. What is brought into play, i suggest, is a variety of Gricean organic meaning.

I argue that by recognizing the literary an interpretation includes both nonnatural and natural meaning, we concerned a far better understanding of ours interpretive engagement through literature. Ns show, first, that by recognizing the place of natural meaning in literature we are in a better position to know the interpreter"s connection with the actual author. Second, transforming to the created debate around literary meaning, ns argue that acknowledgment of the distinction between nonnatural and natural meaning in literary works brings clarity come this debate and also offers some assistance for actual intentionalism. I believe a an ext inclusive check out of literary meaning helps resolve a difficulty raised by Noël Carroll about formulating the actual intentionalist view—one that, ns argue, leads Carroll astray and prevents the from defending this view in that is strongest and also most attractive form.


I have actually said that there is a propensity to assume that literary translate is exclusively involved with intended meaning—meaning the the kind shown in (a) with (d)—and that this is a mistake. To clarify this claim, we require a fuller account that the sort of definition featured in (a) v (d), so let me begin by expanding on my case that that type of meaning—the kind commonly taken come exhaust the border of literature meaning—is a variety of what Grice phone call nonnatural meaning.

Although Grice"s analysis of definition is well known, the will help to map out the basics relevant to mine discussion. His account of nonnatural an interpretation aims to record one familiar way in which we use words ‘meaning.’ to illustrate, right here is an instance of nonnatural meaning. During an annoying phone conversation, I catch the eye that a friend who is stand by and make a mock gesture that stamping mine foot. My girlfriend gets my point and infers that ns am angry through the human on the phone. What she grasps is the nonnatural meaning of mine gesture: that meant (in a acquainted sense of that word) that ns am angry. Grice captures the crucial features that nonnatural meaning by saying that once a communicative action carries nonnatural meaning, there space two associated intentions involved: the communicator (or “utterer”) not only (i) intends what the or she does to cause the audience to respond in a certain means (such as type a specific belief) but additionally (ii) intends that this need to specifically occur by method of his or her action revealing that very first intention come the audience.3

Grice contrasts nonnatural an interpretation with “natural” meaning.4 as soon as we say the smoke way fire, this is herbal meaning. Fire causes smoke; so, exhilaration announces the presence of fire. Yet effects do not always announce your cause. If, by part convoluted series of events, a fire were to cause a road accident, we would certainly not say the accident expected fire. Exhilaration naturally way fire not just due to the fact that it is caused by that but since it is among its characteristic and familiar effects and therefore tells united state of that is presence. In what follows, I will be specifically concerned with natural definition as a feature of person behavior. If i am suggesting with you and get so angry that i involuntarily snap the pencil in my hand, this might prompt you come think that way he is angry. Due to the fact that you understand what anger is, therefore know the intemperate or aggressive actions is among its characteristic effects, you room able to translate that my activity (naturally) means I am angry.5

The an easy difference between nonnatural and natural definition is the mechanism by means of which the interpreter gets the message. When you infer the my snapping the pencil way I am angry, you do the inference ~ above the basis that my action is proof of mine anger: the connection is evidential. By contrast, in a case of nonnatural an interpretation such as the foot stamping example, mine stamping my foot is, visibly, a mock display of gift angry and hence does not serve as proof of fury on mine part, yet is my way of revealing to you what ns am trying to get you to think. Right here you get the message—conclude that ns am angry—because I have cued you to the result that ns intend girlfriend to draw that conclusion, and you have actually done so due to the fact that you have actually grasped mine intention. Nonnatural meaning involves a transaction in i m sorry the utterer captures the eye the his or her hearers, engaging them as collaborators, and in cases of successful communication they follow his or she cue—draw the to plan conclusion or reaction in the intended way—because they see that that is what the or she intends. This is the idea recorded by problem (ii) in Grice"s evaluation of nonnatural meaning.

Returning to literature, it should now it is in clear the the inquiries I noted in (a) v (d) space all came to with nonnatural meaning. Taking an (a) form case, to understand an allusion a poem provides to part lines in Shakespeare, we must make the connection with Shakespeare, however we must also grasp the that is what the author intends us to do. Us cannot be said to have understood the lines as an allusion if, because that example, we thought the resemblance to the lines from Shakespeare to be accidental. This is an circumstances of meaning due to the fact that the writer not just intends his or her reader to be placed in psychic of Shakespeare"s lines but additionally intends them to make the connection by seeing that that is his or she intention. Consider likewise a (b) kind case. Below are the final two present of Yeats"s “Among institution Children”: O human body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How have the right to we recognize the dancer indigenous the dance?6

The poem describes a dancer, however what provides these present a an effective effect is the the valuation of the lines chin evokes the swinging movement of the dance. The effect is of course intended, and also Yeats intends us to view it as such: we space meant to reap the method he has actually not only described yet given us movement. The effect is a attribute of the meaning of the poem since it is only once we realize the the lines have been make in order come evoke a dancer"s motions that we completely appreciate their force. Much more briefly, turning to a (c) type case, when a writer employs the convention of one unreliable narrator, and also a leader sees that what the narrator says falls short to right what is yes, really happening in the story however does not see that the narrator"s unreliability is intentional and intended to be viewed as such, this leader would have failed to recognize the narrator"s function in the story. Finally, as a (d) kind case, consider a writer who parodies a literature genre by exaggerating its properties features. A reader who took the composing as an amusingly it is not enough ability instance the the genre, without seeing the the incompetence was intentional and meant come be viewed as such, would clearly not be enjoying it as parody. All these cases illustrate the central Gricean requirement for nonnatural meaning: that the interpreter come at the definition by grasping what the utterer intends come convey.

II. THE neglect OF organic MEANING

I have actually said over there is a widespread tendency to assume the literary interpretation is always directed at the nonnatural meaning of a work. Peter Lamarque take away this view.7 Lamarque points the end that both natural phenomena and also human actions and also artifacts can be objects of interpretation. But having do a clear distinction between these 2 categories of object, he claims that “the meaning sought in the different instances is itself different,” and also that only natural phenomena are as necessary viewed as having natural meaning.8 the writes: come the degree that deserve to be stated to average something, and also where that meaning is unclear, they space subject come interpretation. But an interpretation in these cases is what Grice dubbed ‘natural meaning.’ … for artefacts a different mode of interpretation, and as necessary a different kind of definition (‘non natural’), is sought. … Having established that a phenomenon is herbal rather than intentional we seek to make sense of it with naturalistic explanation, but that would not it is in appropriate if we viewed the phenomenon to be of human being (or intentionalistic) origin.9

I agree v Lamarque the both herbal phenomena and human actions and artifacts have the right to be objects that interpretation and also that interpreters have to make a difference between this two different kinds the case. I additionally agree the in the case of objects the the 2nd kind, the interpreter should look for a function or underlying intention. Yet I disagree once he claims that once an item has been identified as an action or artifact, this provides it not suitable to analyze it naturalistically.10 This overlooks the opportunity that in enhancement to creating the intentionally behind an action or artifact, us may likewise need to think about the possibility that it possesses a component of herbal meaning. Going ago to my example where i snap a pencil in a right of anger, I claimed that if you were observing me you could conclude that means he is angry. In this case, the definition of the action—that it mirrors my anger—is no intentional however a feature of the action"s natural meaning. (It is true the someone might intentionally present his or her anger by snapping a pencil, however my instance is different: that is the acquainted kind of instance where we spontaneously execute something that betrays ours anger unintentionally.) not only have the right to actions and also artifacts have actually a organic meaning, however this an interpretation may in some cases only be easily accessible to those that have an initial interpreted their nonnatural meaning. For example, someone states something to me and also I interpret the remark as sarcastic, and based top top this conclusion, I additional interpret it as revealing his or her dislike that me. The sarcasm chin is a clear example of Gricean nonnatural meaning—it is plan by the utterer to it is in heard by me as sarcasm—but what that unintentionally reveals about the speaker—his or she ill feeling towards me—is a feature of its organic meaning. (Again, who can, in a different kind that case, purposely convey dislike by the usage of sarcasm, however I am thinking of the equally familiar situation where the sarcasm unintentionally reveals dislike.)

While Lamarque specifically rules the end natural meaning as one of the kinds of meaning we might legitimately be concerned with once interpreting person artifacts, and in for this reason doing excludes, through implication, the translate of natural definition in literature, what much more often wake up in recent and also current theorizing around the an interpretation and interpretation of literary functions is the the interpretation of nonnatural an interpretation dominates the conversation to the allude where natural meaning is just overlooked. The old debate about literary meaning that goes back to Beardsley and Wimsatt"s attack on the intentional fallacy is, I have actually pointed out, specifically a discussion around nonnatural an interpretation in literature, revolving together it does about the duty of intentionally in interpretation, and my concern is the this controversy is all too regularly taken to exhaust the topic of what literary translate is every about.

Consider, because that example, Robert Stecker"s book length research of art interpretation, Interpretation and also Construction. It is among the merits of Stecker"s book that it acknowledges that in interpreting a work-related of art, we are concerned, among other things, through (i) “the artist"s on purpose in producing the work” or v “what the artist could have intended,” and likewise with (ii) “what the artist does; for example, what mindsets get expressed, quite apart from, often in spite of, the artist"s intention.”11 Here, Stecker acknowledges that there space at the very least two quite various kinds of meaning or meaning we are dealing with when we interpret works that art. Let united state for the moment provide the name ‘intention oriented meaning’ come the kind linked with (i) and the name ‘nonintention oriented meaning’ come the kind linked with (ii). Stecker suggests that “there is together a thing as the meaning of a work,” and that this ‘work meaning’ consists of both intention oriented and also nonintention oriented meaning.12 This promisingly acknowledges the visibility of a sort of literature meaning—nonintention oriented meaning—that is not underwritten by a purpose or basic intention and also may require what Lamarque phone call “naturalistic” interpretation. However Stecker does not follow up on this. Ns agree with his further claim that “in the instance of literary works, the an interpretation of a work … is similar to the utterance meaning,” but when he turns to the question of the nature the utterance definition in literature, he adheres to the basic practice of dealing with this together an worry essentially around intention oriented meaning, confining his discussion of literary an interpretation to competitor theories around the role of on purpose in determining the an interpretation of a literature work.13 He therefore says disappointingly little in his book about the sort of an interpretation suggested through (ii) nor anything about the distinctive features of the process involved in interpreting it. The reason for this, it appears to me, is that having argued that artistic definition involves both intentionally oriented and nonintention oriented meaning, he then bundles them together and only gives the former the fist it deserves, if the last is shed sight of and neglected.

The distinction between intention oriented and also nonintention oriented an interpretation corresponds come Grice"s distinction between nonnatural and natural meaning. Reverting now (and henceforth) come Grice"s terminology, i propose to keep nonnatural and also natural literary meaning apart, dealing with them equally and highlighting your differences. Organic meaning—the kind of definition that Stecker associates v (ii) but says tiny about—is crucial dimension of literature meaning, and its ignore in ours theorizing around literature leaves a void in the theory of interpretation that calls out for attention.14 In the following section I focus on this kind of meaning in literature works.


While literary functions are, the course, intentionally developed artifacts and ones that space invariably rich in nonnatural meaning, interpreting them, as Stecker suggests, requires not just that we deal with their to plan meaning, or how they can have been intended, but also to a significance they can have simply in virtue of “what the artist does”—a significance they occur to have quite apart from, and also perhaps “in despite the of,” the artist"s intentions.15 ns focus, to begin with, ~ above the truth that we have to be perceptible to (e)whether a work, or a passage in a work, wake up to be grave, angry, circumspect, lighthearted, nostalgic, flamboyant, upbeat, restless, full of yearning, and so on.

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Qualities favor these space usually dubbed expressive qualities, but let me emphasize the in singling out, in particular, the expressive characteristics a work-related happens to have, i am separating what i am introduce to in (e) from another kind the expressiveness that is part of a work"s nonnatural meaning. Simply as Yeats nonnaturally intended his poem to evoke the swing that a run by utilizing the rate of that language to lug the ideal movement come mind, so as well a poet can use the valuation of a poem"s language come evoke a feeling or an attitude as part of the poem"s nonnatural meaning—for example, she can use a fast meter to suggest (and be checked out to be suggesting) playfulness or joy.

But in (e) type cases, through contrast, a top quality of emotion or an attitude unintentionally mirrors through in the means a work-related is written, i beg your pardon is to say the work gives the impression—offers evidence—that it was written under the affect of that emotion or mindset without the writer having composed the work in order to convey the impression and hence without her cuing or inviting her reader to see the creating as expressive in that way. The revelatory high quality is one incidental attribute of the writing. Ours actions invariably disclose things about ourselves, whether us intend them come or not, and also the sort of expressiveness i am singling out right here is the the sort where we do not: the writer walk something in a certain way, describes something utilizing a particular choice of words, let united state say, and in for this reason doing expose some facet of his or she inner life there is no intending this, and also in some cases without being conscious of it. Readers may detect fury or nostalgia or sexual yearning in a novel there is no the novelist intended to convey this feelings, and also the novelist may be surprised and also intrigued when a movie critic draws fist to them. Once the way a job-related is composed reveals a emotion or other mental state not since it is intended to yet simply due to the fact that the method it is written provides proof on the basis of which that emotion or mindset can fairly be attributed to the author, the expressive quality is a literary circumstances of Gricean organic meaning.16 In the ax I usage in what follows, nonnatural an interpretation is intentionally to express in writing, while natural meaning is directly expressed. I will say that in comes to grips v nonnatural meaning we are engaged in interactive interpretation and also that in responding come natural meaning we are engaged in external interpretation.