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Author page: Henry Staten

Another way to get at this is just to say that the identification of what the text means with what the author intends is already in place without our having any recourse to a theory of intention or to a positive account of intention as a mental state. While the work that it does in place—determining the act—makes clear the mistake in imagining that the text we write could be either controlled by or liberated from what we meant.
The reason Derrida does not think intentions are governing is because he thinks the condition of having a (linguistic or semiotic) one entails a form of repeatability that the intention cannot fully master. Yet there also cannot be any text-y things, written or spoken or semiotic, without intention playing some role. Moreover, as an interpreter, Derrida wants both: he wants to interpret faithfully the intention, as Henry pointed out, and read what is not available as an intention but inscribed in a text (which reading also produces). Not one or the other, but both.
Do we really need Wittgenstein? It depends. I think that literary scholars today really ought to have a workable understanding of Wittgenstein’s vision of language, for it provides a vital and distinctive alternative to other views on the same matters, views that are widely taught. For the same reason, I think literary scholars really ought to understand Wittgenstein’s critique of theory (or, if one prefers, of certain standard notions of what philosophy is). For a literary theorist it ought to be as unthinkable to know nothing about Wittgenstein as it has been to know nothing about Saussure, or Derrida, or Lacan, or Foucault, and so on through the pantheon of more recent theorists. I wrote Revolution of the Ordinary to make this possible.