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Who decides what art means? - Hayley Levitt


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TEDEd Animation

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There is a question that has been tossed around by philosophers and art critics for decades: how much should an artist's intention affect your interpretation of the work? Do the artist’s plans and motivations affect its meaning? Or is it completely up to the judgment of the viewer? Hayley Levitt explores the complex web of artistic interpretation.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Published in 1954, Wimsatt and Beardsley's essay "The Intentional Fallacy" joined a growing movement in literary theory called New Criticism. New Criticism began developing a few decades prior as a reaction to the way literature was being taught in the United States. During this time, historical background, biographical information about the author, and philology (the study of the development of language) were at the center of literary study. New Criticism shifted the focus back to the works themselves, and encouraged close readings of texts.

Literary critic Ivor Armstrong Richards helped lay the foundation for New Criticism in 1929 with Practical Criticism. In this book, Richards described an experiment he conducted on his students, where he had them analyze a selection of poems without access to any additional background information. John Crowe Ransom was the critic who eventually gave the movement its name with his 1941 volume of essays called The New Criticism.

For a modern take on the debate surrounding authorial intent, read this New York Times column titled Should an Author’s Intentions Matter?

Check out this Washington Post article titled The Literary Theory Idea that Explains How We Talk About Pop Culture.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Hayley Levitt
  • Director Avi Ofer
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Animator Avi Ofer
  • Illustrator Avi Ofer
  • Compositor Marcos Tawil
  • Sound Designer Marcos Tawil
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Francisco Diez

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