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Affective Fallacy


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405183123.2011.x


The concept “affective fallacy” refers to a confusion between two elements of a literary text: what the text is (its linguistic and rhetorical elements) and what it does (its effects on the reader). William K. Wimsatt & Monroe C. Beardsley first introduced it into literary criticism and theory in a 1946 article in Sewanee Review . The concept was later developed in their seminal study The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry ( 1954 ). In some respects, “The affective fallacy” was a follow-up to another important 1946 work, “The intentional fallacy” (which was also revised in The Verbal Icon) , in which Wimsatt and Beardsley argue that in this particular “error” of reading, one locates meaning in the intentions of the author. Both concepts were fundamental in the development of the new criticism, the name given to various schools of criticism stressing formal analysis and close reading that gained prominence in the 1940s and 1950s. New criticism, generally speaking, does not mean to forbid all discussion of emotion, but rather to place literary criticism more solidly in an objective position with respect to the literary text. According to Wimsatt and Beardsley, reading affectively violates the tenets of critical objectivity and substitutes impressionistic and relativistic emotional response for formal effects. Though often criticized as polemical in its attack ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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