The "Affective Fallacy" labeled by Wimsatt and Beardsley and denigrated by an entire generation of critics must be restored'to legitimacy-as probably the most fundamental principle of literature. The effect of a text takes precedence over the objectivity of its "intra-referential":content since this content is meaningful only to the extent that it produces this effect. The concerted effort of formalists to deny or somehow bypass this self-evident axiom has been unique in the history of criticism and may be traced to a variety of causes, not the least of which has been a conservative isolation of literature from its social context. But the exclusion of politics from criticism has been itself a political act, protecting literary "value" by refining it almost beyond human experience.
The outlook of I. A. Richards has been of particular interest because he sought to justify this escapism within affective theory. First employing an "impulse" theory of psychology-and then a "projective" theory derived from Coleridge he defined literary response as synaesthesis, the refined balance of emotions which is self-sufficient and exclusive of overt behavior. "Intra-referential" content was thus removed one degree :from the text to our "incipient response," a bundle of mutually energized impulses inhibiting both praxis and the stock response. However, Richards also i investigated the "sign situation," the total matrix of experience signified by language, and he proposed that literary response involves the "choice of the whole personality." Both these concepts may be invoked to restore praxis, ethics, and even propaganda to the domain of literary response. Unfortunately, Richards has shifted to a more clearly formalist perspective in his later criticism. He has truncated the paradigm of information theory to exclude "speaker" and "hearer" except as the abstractions "source" and "destination," bringing him right back again, really, to the "incipient response," though now mathematically formulated.
It is my contention that "speaker" and "hearer" are both vitally important to the "act" of literature, and that their relationship must be established within a dynamic theory of affective criticism. Richards "choice of the whole personality" is a useful first principle, but properly interpreted it involves unconscious displacement, archetypal embodiment, social responsibility, and other human dimensions requiring at least.ancillary concern with "reductionist" critical approaches (Psychoanalytic, Marxist, etc.) I additionally propose that the paradigm of information theory may be stratificationally rearranged to establish a hierarchy from (1) "objective immediacy" to (2) our pre-verbal organization of experience, (3) its symbolization in language, and (4) its further refinement in the literary act. All these levels must be activated for literature to be meaningful, contrary to the formalist hypothesis bestowing "objective immediacy" upon the text, bypassing our fullest resources of experience, often even of language.
WMU ScholarWorks Citation
Jayne, Edward, "Affective Criticism: Theories of Emotion and Synaesthesis In the Experience of Literature" (1971). English Faculty Publications. 18.