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they will want to know its secret meaning, even if securing it involves violating
the hypothetical intentionalist™s “implicit contract.”And this means that the hypo-
thetical intentionalist™s rules do not really reflect the practice of literary communi-
cation.The hypothetical intentionalist™s characterization of the literary institution,
though in ways commonsensical, is poor sociologically.
On the other hand, the hypothetical intentionalist may allege that his position
allows the interpreter all the information available to the intended, appropriate audi-
ence of the text, where that audience is the one the text requires in order to be
understood.21 So if the intended audience for Christ™s parables is the apostles, then
the interpreter is entitled to all the information they have. However, this maneuver
incurs paradoxical results for the hypothetical intentionalist, since the enabling infor-
mation the apostles had was just the direct revelation of Christ™s intentions.
Apart from the issue of secret meanings, other practices also fly in the face of
hypothetical intentionalism™s generalized rules of artistic communication. Some
212 INTERPRETATION INTENTION
AND


artists, like Frida Kahlo, are intensely autobiographical; penetrating their work
interpretively may just be impossible, unless we look at their private life and what-
ever documentation we can find about it. And where people are intrigued by the
work, they will be grateful to learn about the work™s intended significance from
sources otherwise off-limits according to the hypothetical intentionalist.22
The hypothetical intentionalist may ask why we should be interested in the
meaning of the work for the artist. But if what a work is about is the artist™s per-
sonal journey and we accept, as we often do, that this is a legitimate artistic enter-
prise, then we should ask in response:Why should we foreclose inquiry into the
artist™s private, not publicly documented life and abjure examining his personal
papers and gingerly interviewing her friends and acquaintances? Some artforms
may include in their contract with the audience a willing preparedness to be
informed of private authorial intentions.23 And if that is so, then the hypothetical
intentionalist cannot be right in alleging that the best-warranted hypothesis
derived from publicly available materials is the one always preferred, over privately
divulged intentions, by our interpretive institutions.
Of course, the private/public dichotomy presupposed by the hypothetical inten-
tionalist is also worth questioning.The hypothetical intentionalist permits the inter-
preter to use published biographical information about an author when unraveling
the meaning of a text, but forbids the use of private information, garnered from
unpublished papers, interviews, and so on. But it seems that much of what is found in
public accounts of artists at one time or another got there because scholars inter-
viewed authors and their associates or found information among private papers and
the like. Is the hypothetical intentionalist willing to employ any reliable reports about
the author™s life and intentions so long as they have been published? But sometimes
the published material comes from private material.
On the one hand, it would seem utterly arbitrary for the hypothetical inten-
tionalist to allow interpreters to use biographical facts about authors once they are
published, while disallowing reference to the same facts before they are published.
On the other hand, it would seem impracticable for the hypothetical intentional-
ist to rule that the interpreter can use published biographical information about
authors only if it is known to be derived from public sources, rather than private
ones. And, in any event, this is not how interpreters behave. Once it is published,
no matter its provenance, interpreters will use the information.
Much of Stuart Gilbert™s famous James Joyce™s Ulysses is, as Gilbert himself makes
clear in his preface, the result of close consultation with Joyce about his intended
meanings, structures, and associations.24 Does hypothetical intentionalism permit
interpreters access to James Joyce™s Ulysses, still surely an important commentary on
Joyce™s novel? If the hypothetical intentionalist allows the interpreter to use Gilbert™s
work as historical background information about Ulysses, then the hypothetical
intentionalist™s distinction between public and private appears arbitrary. But if the
hypothetical intentionalist objects to the use of James Joyce™s Ulysses, then he has
failed to discover the actual norms of our practices of literary communication, since
interpreters resort to Gilbert™s discoveries shamelessly.
THE DEBATE HYPOTHETICAL ACTUAL INTENTIONALISM 213
BETWEEN AND


Perhaps the hypothetical intentionalist has a way of framing the private/public
distinction in a way that can avoid criticisms like these. But until he says some-
thing more precise about that distinction than he has, we must remain skeptical of
the hypothetical intentionalist™s claim to have accurately captured the underlying
rules of literary communication.
In summary, modest actual intentionalism argues that actual authorial inten-
tion is relevant to the meaning of artworks.With respect to literary utterances, the
modest actual intentionalist takes meaning to be a function of the author™s actual
intention, where that intention is supportable by what has been written. In this
regard, modest actual intentionalism maintains that artistic and literary interpreta-
tion is seamlessly linked with ordinary, everyday forms of interpretation. In both
cases, we take utterance tokens to mean what the utterer intends, where that is
supportable by what has been said.
Whereas modest actual intentionalism claims that the aim of literary interpreta-
tion is to recover actual authorial intentions (that are consistent with the relevant
texts), hypothetical intentionalism alleges that the aim of literary interpretation is
merely to establish the most plausible hypothesis about authorial intention.The mod-
est actual intentionalist objects that this confuses warranted assertibility for the truth,
whereas the shared methodologies of modest actual intentionalism and hypothetical
intentionalism both indicate that we should prefer establishing actual authorial
intent, when possible, rather than remaining satisfied with only the best-warranted
hypothesis about said intent.25
In turn, the hypothetical intentionalist concedes that this would be so were lit-
erary interpretation on par with ordinary interpretation. But the hypothetical
intentionalist argues that this is not the case. Because of its special interests, literary
interpretation, the hypothetical intentionalist avers, prizes warranted assertibility
over the truth about authorial intentions (where those part company). Lamenta-
bly, the hypothetical intentionalist does not tell us much about those special inter-
ests or about their grounds. Moreover, as I have tried to show at length, the
overarching rules that the hypothetical intentionalist presumes reign over our
interpretive institutions and practices are liable to many criticisms “ criticisms
that, in fact, suggest that modest actual intentionalism provides us with a far better
picture of our existing interpretive practices.
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
PA RT I V: A RT, E M O T I O N ,
AND MORALITY




ART, NARRATIVE, EMOTION
AND


I . I N T RO D U C T I O N

Despite the great interest in the reception of art and media in recent years, little
attention has been paid to the way in which narrative fictions, whether high or
low, address the emotions of readers, listeners, and viewers. Instead, emphasis is
generally placed on hermeneutics. Interpretation of what is loosely called the
meaning of the work has preoccupied attention in the humanities. New interpre-
tations, often called symptomatic readings, of what are generically identified as
“texts” are still the order of the day in liberal arts journals.And even what some in
cultural studies call “recodings,” and what some feminists call “readings against the
grain,” focus on the putative interpretive activities of certain groups of readers, lis-
teners, and viewers. What is not studied in any fine-grained way is how works
engage the emotions of the audience.What I wish to deal with in this essay is how
we might go about doing just that.
It is not my contention that, in principle, hermeneutics is illegitimate. Rather,
I think that our research into the arts should be supplemented by considering
their relation to the emotions, especially if we are interested in audience recep-
tion. Moreover, the present moment is particularly propitious in this respect, since
recent research into the emotions over the last two decades in fields like psychol-
ogy and philosophy have made the possibility of interrogating the relation of art
to the emotions feasible with a heretofore unimagined level of precision.1
Perhaps it will be felt that I have already misdescribed the situation. One
might argue that I have overstated the degree to which scholars in the humanities
have ignored the emotions. For a great deal of recent humanistic research is psy-
choanalytic, and, at least ostensibly, psychoanalysis is concerned with the emo-
tions. And yet I would respond that psychoanalysis of the sort that is popular
among scholars in the humanities today is not really concerned with the garden-
variety emotions “ that is, the emotions marked in ordinary speech, like fear, awe,
pity, admiration, anger, and so on “ which garden-variety emotions, in fact, are
what keep audiences engaged with artworks.

From: Emotion and the Arts, ed. by Mette Hjort and Sue Laver (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1997), 190“211.

2 15
216 ART, EMOTION, MORALITY
AND


Psychoanalytic critics seem more concerned with certain generic, ill-defined
forces like desire and pleasure that they speak of without prepositional modifica-
tion. For example, they write of Desire with a capital “D,” rather than of small
d-desires for this or that. Or they seem preoccupied by certain anxieties, like male
castration anxiety or anxieties about the dissolution of the unity of the subject
whose purchase on the reading, listening, and viewing activities of audiences are
highly suspect and controversial. Indeed, one might speculate that psychoanalytic
critics pay scant attention to the operation of the garden-variety emotions of
readers, listeners, and viewers exactly because psychoanalytic theory itself has little
to say about the nature of such emotions, but often merely assumes the definition
of emotions, like fear, that are already in operation in ordinary language.2
Nevertheless, it seems to me that if we are really concerned with audience
reception, we should pay more attention than we do to the dynamics of the audi-
ence™s emotional involvement with narrative artworks, both high and low, and
especially to the way in which such artworks are designed to elicit garden-variety
emotional responses from readers, listeners, and viewers. For in large measure,
what commands and shapes the audience™s attention to the artwork, what enables
the audience to follow and to comprehend the artwork, and what energizes our
commitment to seeing the narrative artwork through to its conclusion is the
emotional address of the narrative artwork. Speaking metaphorically, we might say
that to a large extent, emotions are the cement that keeps audiences connected to
the artworks, especially to the narrative fictions, that they consume. Moreover, the
emotions in question here are generally garden-variety ones “ fear, anger, horror,
reverence, suspense, pity, admiration, indignation, awe, repugnance, grief, compas-
sion, infatuation, comic amusement, and the like.
One way to suggest partial substantiation for this assertion might be simply to
consider the degree to which popular fictions rely so heavily on the activation of
specific, garden-variety emotions. So many melodramas, for example, rely upon the
audience™s concern for protagonists, whom we not only pity for their misfortunes,
but whom we also admire for their character, especially as it is manifested in their
self-sacrificing behavior, such as Stella Dallas™s self-willed separation from her daugh-
ter.3 Horror fictions, of course, require not only that we be thrown into a state of
fear toward and repulsion by the monsters that threaten the human race, but that we
feel mounting anxiety as the protagonist ventures into the hidden recesses of the old
dark house. But, of course, the evidence for the importance of emotional involve-
ment for the reception of narrative art is not simply that it is a recurring feature of
the popular arts. For as Aristotle pointed out long ago, essential to the tragic response
to high art is the elicitation of pity and fear in the audience.
With much art, especially narrative art, eliciting the appropriate emotional
response from the audience is a condition of our comprehending and following
the work. For example, if we do not hate certain characters, then the trajectory of
a narrative bent upon punishing them will not only be unsatisfying, but even
unintelligible.What, we might ask ourselves, is the author™s point in detailing their
comeuppance? Why is so much time and elaboration being spent on showing us
ART, NARRATIVE, EMOTION 217
AND


how this vicious character comes into his just deserts? It will not compute, unless
we are attending to the story in the emotionally appropriate way.
But the emotions engaged by the plot are generally not only a condition of
the intelligibility of the story.They are often typically what keeps us glued, so to
say, to the story. The emotions in life and in art have the function of focusing
attention. And with narrative fictions, they keep us focused on the plot on a
moment-to-moment basis.They organize our attention in terms of what is going
on in a scene and they also prime our anticipation about the kinds of things to
expect in future scenes. To be more specific: our emotional responses to earlier
scenes will generally contribute to organizing the way in which we attend to later
scenes. If we are indignant about a character™s behavior when we first encounter
her, then, when she next appears, we will be on the lookout for more evidence of
nastiness in her behavior. Emotions organize perception. Emotions shape the way
in which we follow character behavior, just as in everyday life they enable us to
track the behavior of others.
Moreover, although most of my examples so far have relied on our emotional
involvement with characters, clearly what I have said can also apply to situations
and events. The horror that we feel about the initial outbreak of vampirism in a
novel like Salem™s Lot emotionally colors the way in which we attend to subse-
quent scenes. Our emotional involvement alerts us to the potential dangers in sit-
uations that we might otherwise overlook. Indeed, it quite frequently alerts us to
dangers in situations that the characters overlook. Small animal bites on the neck
may mean little to them, but they loom large in our attention.
Though I think that what I have said so far is fairly obvious, there is one line
of misunderstanding that I would like to neutralize before it takes root. I do think
that we should pay more attention to the role of the emotions in our commerce
with artworks, but I am not advocating a reversion to the sorts of expression the-
ories of art that were advanced by theorists like Leo Tolstoy and Robin Colling-
wood.4 Tolstoy and Collingwood were in the business of developing universal
theories of art. As such, they maintained, in different ways, that the communica-
tion or expression of emotion was an essential or defining feature of art.Their the-
ories were universal characterizations of the nature of all art. In contrast, I am not
defending a theory about all art, or even all narrative art.5 I simply wish to talk,
albeit theoretically, about the operation of the emotions in art, especially narrative
art, where it occurs. And this is logically consistent with eschewing an expression
theory of art in general.
I do not want to deny that there may be some art that does not traffic in emo-
tions, especially in what I have called garden-variety emotions. Some paintings
may be about the nature of painting “ maybe much of Frank Stella™s work is about
the conventions of framing; and some films, like Zorn™s Lemma by Hollis Framp-
ton, may be about the nature of film. These works may be articulated in such a
way that they address cognition exclusively. Unlike Tolstoy and Collingwood, I
would not argue that these works are not art inasmuch as they are not connected
to the emotions. For my claim is not that all art is involved in the elicitation of the
218 ART, EMOTION, MORALITY
AND


emotions, but only that some is “ indeed, much is “ and, furthermore, I contend
that it is useful to develop a theory about the relation of art to the emotions for
these works, even if the result is not a universalizable theory that pertains to all art,
or even all narrative fiction.
There are also other important issues of detail that distinguish my approach
from those of Tolstoy and Collingwood.Tolstoy maintained that the relevant emo-
tions requisite for art status were those that were felt by both the author in mak-
ing the work and the audience in consuming it.That is, he thought it criterial of
art status that the emotion experienced by the audience be the same emotion that
had been sincerely undergone by the artist. But I am interested in the emotions
elicited by artworks whether or not they parallel the emotions felt by the artist in
creating the work. As Denis Diderot so forcefully argued, actors typically evoke
emotional responses from audiences that they may not have felt; a performer can
communicate Othello™s jealousy without being jealous.6
For Collingwood, art expresses emotion, by which he maintained that the art-
work, properly so-called, was an occasion for the artist to work through or clarify
some initially vague feeling. This process of clarification is supposed to stand in
contrast to the arousal of emotion, which Collingwood thought of as the aim of
pseudo-art. It was pseudo-art according to Collingwood because it relied on the
deployment of tried-and-true formulas to arrive at preordained effects.And given
Collingwood™s somewhat Kantian biases in this regard, anything that smacked of
rules or formulas could not count as art properly so-called.
But I, in contrast, take it to be an empirical fact that much of what we cor-
rectly call art does traffic in arousing emotions; or, if arousal talk strikes you as too
strong, much art is involved in promoting, encouraging, or eliciting preordained

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