Author's Intent: Stated or Implied

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

To be able to best understand a text, it is important to know what the author intended by it. This lesson will discuss how to find authorial intent in a text whether it is explicitly stated or implied.

Authorial Intent Definition and Importance

Authors write a text for a variety of reasons, sometimes to get a theme across or sometimes to teach a moral. It is important to understand authorial intent, or what the author's purpose for writing a text is, in order to better understand the text and all its components. If you were to read George Orwell's Animal Farm just as a story about animals and not pay attention to Orwell's intention of commenting on the Russian Revolution, you would miss a major point of the story. Authorial intent plays a major role in our understanding of a text: if we cannot figure out what the intent is, we often cannot pick up on important points throughout the text.

So how do we do this? Sometimes the author directly states their intent, making it explicit or clearly and directly stated. The author might include something like, ''I am writing this to. . .'' or ''This novel will. . . .'' In these cases, determining authorial intent is fairly easy. But these instances occur far more in scholarly books where the author wants to clearly set up what the book will talk about than in novels or other types of literature. In most fiction, the authorial intent will be implicit, meaning it is implied but not clearly stated. There are some ways to be able to determine an author's intent, even if it is implicit, in a story, which is what we will discuss in this lesson.

Explicit Authorial Intention

If you are lucky, the author of the of the text will explicitly tell you their purpose for writing. Some of the best examples of this are in the epistles, or letters, of the New Testament. In the Epistle of Jude, the author writes a letter to a congregation to provide some instruction. Instead of leaving the reader guessing the purpose of the letter, the author explains, ''Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.'' We get an explicit statement here about why the author is writing: to tell the congregation to uphold their faith.

Explicit authorial intent is often identified by use of first person pronouns. An author writing a biography of William Shakespeare might write, ''In this book, I will discuss the education of William Shakespeare and how it influenced his mastery of the English language.'' With a statement like this, we can tell that this book is going to focus particularly on Shakespeare's education and its influence on his writing so we know the book is not going to focus on his family or politics.

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