We currently have three questions about authorial intent on this site:

  1. How much weight is given to authors' intentions in literary analysis?
  2. The author of a literary work disagrees with critics about meaning—who's right?
  3. How much weight should we give authors' declarations of their intent after the fact?

Are any of these questions duplicates of each other?

  • 1
    1.) and 2.) definitely look like dupes, and the third probably, but not sure.
    – Mithical Mod
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 19:13
  • 2
    2) and 3) are more looking at edge cases for 1). Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 19:39
  • 1
    I did see that these were re-tagged as [authorial-intent] - is the tag on after all? Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 18:11
  • 4
    @EJoshuaS no. This tag is for questions about the concept of authorial intent. The tag is not at all for questions that ask what an author intended when they wrote a work of literature.
    – user111
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


As the author of the second question, I think 2 and 3 probably are very similar (perhaps duplicates), just out of unfortunate timing more than anything. The other question was posted slightly earlier, but mine is self-answered, so I'm happy to co-ordinate fixing that as appropriate.

I did try to specifically address the difference between 1 and 2 in the question:

I've read 'How much weight is given to authors' intentions in literary analysis?', but this question approaches the issue from the perspective on an academic, whereas I specifically want to address questions where more casual readers want to check if their theories are 'correct' and how a reader can decide the method of analysis for themselves.

I wanted to focus in on the misconception of 'correctness' rather than just discuss what academics focus on. Later in my answer, I've tried to reflect that by giving some practical steps for non-academics to follow. If you have any suggestions to further differentiate that, that'd be immensely helpful.

It was also my hope that my question could serve as a starting point for a canonical question to link confused questions to (see What to do about questions that confuse author's intentions with a text's meaning? for context) since I can see your point about addressing the issue in every question as being repetitious.

Let me know what you think about it though—I didn't post my question with any slight against yours, I was just unsure that it really fit as well under that one as opposed to one specifically targeted at a person analysing a text themselves. If you can see a way of merging these together, I'm happy to do that.


I think that all three are different. @Aurora0001 was referring specifically to who to believe - the author or the critics - in the case of a disagreement. I was more referring to cases where the author's claims are based on dubious interpretations of the text and/or things that weren't clearly addressed in the text. For example, if an author releases a character sketch (especially long after the fact when it's difficult to tell whether that's actually what the author had in mind when he/she wrote the book), is it valid to use that as evidence as to what the book means?

Items #2 and #3 are much more specific instances of what #1 is talking about. I think that any theory of the relationship between authorial intent and meaning will have edge cases and that that's what the other two questions are exploring.

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