A term used in literary theory to mean the misconception of basing an assessment of a work on the author’s intention rather than one’s own response to the actual work.
The intention of the author is not necessarily the only interpretation/meaning of a text; rather readers can interpret it in an infinite amount of different ways, and their interpretation is no less valid.
‘The design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art.’ – W. K. Wimsatt and M. Beardsley, ‘The Intentional Fallacy.’ (1946)
In historical context…Darwin stated that he did not intend for his theory of evolution to denounce religion, however this does not make that those who interpreted in such a way wrong. Their interpretation of the text is no less important than Darwin’s.