From a cognitivist perspective, I defend the utility of the implied author for the interpretation of fictional texts that support more than one intentional reading. David Herman (2008) provides a foil in his opposition to the implied author as object-like source and his promotion of the reading of intentionality as it appears in a distributed field of cues. This understanding of intentionality, he argues, is embedded in our “folk psychology” and is triggered when any configuration of marks is apprehended as artifactual. I argue that the intentionality of an originating cause is equally an element of our folk psychology and inseparable from the value placed on the particularity of artistic achievement. My defense of the implied author is unorthodox in that it applies to fictional texts that are susceptible to multiple intentional interpretations. To make this case, I switch my cognitivist perspective from the reader reading to the writer writing, drawing on commentary by authors regarding the autonomy of their characters and the work of Marjorie Taylor on “imaginary friends.” I argue that the free, unpredictable element of fictional world creation is matched by a freedom of fiction to accommodate competing intentional interpretations. The principal exchange value of my hypothesis for the sciences of cognition lies in the questions it raises regarding the complexity of reader response.
Research Article| September 01 2011
H. Porter Abbott; Reading Intended Meaning Where None Is Intended: A Cognitivist Reappraisal of the Implied Author. Poetics Today 1 September 2011; 32 (3): 461–487. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-1375234
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