"Authorship and Intention"

How does knowledge of authors and their intentions affect the interpretation of the texts we study? What is the significance of the intentionality of a text or its author? Is the author’s intention a valid concern? Questions of authorship and intention are central to textual scholarship, and this interdisciplinary seminar explores the role of authorship and intention from a wide range of perspectives, with topics ranging from author museums and genetic manuscript studies, to probability designs, legislative intent, epistemology and ethics.



The seminar at a glance: program (.pdf) with all addresses / meeting points (version 2018/05/31)

Keynote Speaker: Toril Moi

Toril Moi is James B. Duke Professor of Literature and Romance Studies, and Professor of English, and Theater Studies at Duke University. She is Director of the Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature at Duke. She is currently also a Professor II at The National Library, Oslo. Moi's main areas of research are feminist theory and women's writing; the intersection of literature, philosophy and aesthetics; and ordinary language philosophy in the tradition of Wittgenstein, Cavell and Austin. She will give a research seminar related to her newest book, Revolution of the Ordinary: Literary Studies after Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell (Chicago University Press, 2017).

"Authorship and Intention after Wittgenstein and Cavell: informal remarks"

Literary critics have been told that they shouldn't ask about the author's intentions, but instead focus on the work itself.

Drawing on Moi's work in Revolution of the Ordinary, this talk will look at the picture of intentions, and of texts, presupposed in such warnings. Toril Moi will show that in ordinary life we quite regularly discern other people's intentions. Are authors' intentions different? What do we lose if we refuse ourselves leave to discuss intentions? Is it even possible to speak about responsibility and commitment without speaking about intentions?

All Lecturers 

(Alpabetical order)

Knut Bergo: "Legislative intent, convensionalism and the naturalist fallacy

Karin Kukkonen: "Trails and Traces: Reading Texts through Probability Designs"

Evyatar Marienberg: “Authorship, Intention, and Biography in Popular Music: Religion in Sting’s Work

Toril Moi: "Authorship and Intention after Wittgenstein and Cavell: informal remarks"

Johan Schimanski and Ulrike Spring: "Who speaks in the Author Museum? Finding intentions and authority in literary Exhibitions"

Blossom Stefaniw: "Knowledge and Authorship in the Tura Papyri: epistemology and ethics in ancient and modern textual scholarship"

Erik Tonning: "Genetic Manuscript Studies and Multiple Archival Selves: Versions of ‘the Beckettian’ in the Last Plays and Surrounding Archives"


(In order of appearance) 

"Trails and Traces: Reading Texts through Probability Designs"

Kukkonen, Karin. Assoc. Professor, Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo

We will discuss how literary texts, considered as carefully crafted linguistic artefacts, can be read through recent work in design studies, manuscript genetics and cognitive approaches to literature. “Design” for our purposes will refer to the (1) design process in writing and the traces that can be discerned in style and narrative and to the (2) “design” that a narrative text has on the reader’s meaning-making process.

We will discuss conceptual links between these two notions of design and then look at several examples for how the trails and traces of design might be analysed through joint attention created by narrators, narrative variation in multiple plots and probability designs, and different versions of the same narrative across different textual Versions.

“Authorship, Intention, and Biography in Popular Music: Religion in Sting’s Work”

Marienberg, Evyatar. Assoc. Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In this presentation, I will discuss methodological questions about how and if one can, or should, use what we know about a songwriter in analyzing that person’s work. What should we do with what the author says about his or her songs in interviews, performances, or other written pieces? Can we analyze lyrics without their musical setting? What about ideas expressed in music videos created to accompany the songs? Where does biography end and creativity begin? It is obvious that not all songs written in first person are autobiographical, but some are. Is there a reasonable way to know which is which? What should a scholar do when the work studied was composed by a living person and the scholar has a direct channel of communication with that person? Should one ask the author such questions, and if one does, what should one do with the answers? This presentation will include methodological discussion of these questions and others, together with presentation of particular cases of lyrics composed by the British songwriter and performer Sting (Gordon Matthew Sumner, b. 1951). The issue of religion in his work will be particularly emphasized.

"Who speaks in the Author Museum? Finding intentions and authority in literary exhibitions"

Spring, Ulrike. Associate Professor of Modern European History, University of Oslo / Professor II, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

 Johan Schimanski, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Oslo.

We will be presenting the research project TRAUM – Transforming Author Museums, and taking our departure point in various examples, discussing

1. how author museums can be both read as historical sources to authors’ intentions and themselves be read as intended texts,

2. how Author museums can focus on the contemporary and historical intentions of the Authors and exhibition producers, and

3. how author museums can give authority to specific authors and texts in canonization processes.

"Legislative intent, convensionalism and the naturalist fallacy"

Bergo, Knut. Dr. juris, partner, Schjødt Law firm.

The concept of legislative intent has for a very long time been of importance in legal reasoning, basically as long as law has been seen as a modern project of human design. This is mainly because the concept of intent forms an essential part of the general framework on how we understand linguistic expressions in the broadest sense (equivalent to a "text" in the Derrida-manner) where the authors intention (or will, motive or desire or whatever) is understood as the "inner mover” causing her to express a certain view or produce a certain text.

The sources of law doctrines in Norway, the U.S. and in England, all acknowledge legislative intent as a source of law. The details of the concept and its role in the overall scheme of legal reasoning varies but is still so similar that a more overall analysis is merited. The probably most important finding in my book “Høyesteretts forarbeidsbruk” (“The Supreme Courts use of preparatory legislative material”, Oslo 2000) was that legislative intent was the most important notion in the court’s interpretation of Statues of Law 1967-1999 though misunderstood and under-communicated in legal theory.

I will however not limit myself to the under-developed Norwegian legal doctrine but explore the concept of legislative intent on an analytical level. What I will try to do, is to introduce and elaborate the very practical concept of legislative intent in legal reasoning and offer a critical perspective using two general philosophical tools:

What the legal doctrines traditionally “fail” to do, is to re-think the concept of legislative intent on the back of Wittgensteins’ reading of the concept of intention is a matter of language and the intention as such a “black box” simply assumed, and Derridas’ placing of intent within the History of the Metaphysics of the Presence ranking substance over form and intention over expression. Both matters can be seen as parts of the very same naturalist fallacy of intention.

My main thesis is that the “discovery” of intent as a mere chimera or black box, does not preclude legislative intent from being important but can rather can serve to establish a broader concept of “institutional intent” on a conventional basis, whatever that means, where the intention behind the text is just another text applied because we are used to apply them.

On the other hand, the assumed priority of intention over text is a metaphysical notion. This leads me to the conclusion that a ranking of intention over text (or more precisely the text of intention over the statutory text) is a matter of conventionality and thus subject to discussion. In the end it is a matter of textual production of ranking norms, and a matter of consciousness and consistency. This is where I will temporary end the lecture - with exploring a quite recent rebirth of the interpretive self-restraint in the Norwegian Supreme Court a concerning penal laws, and the further implications that can be drawn therefrom. 

"Knowledge and Authorship in the Tura Papyri: epistemology and ethics in ancient and modern textual scholarship"

Stefaniw, Blossom. Junior Professor, Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity, Faculty of Protestant Theology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz 

This lecture surveys five key methodological and theoretical problems connected to the Tura Papyri. These are:

1) Ancient Christian Textualities

2) Ancient Scholarship and Chronography

3) Knowledge and Narrative

4) Contingency and the Archive

5) Modern Scholarship and Imagination

I will inquire about how the textual history of Christianity looks if we uncouple it from universalism, from eurocentric 19th century historiography, and from foundationalist epistemology, all of which we might denote under the term 'colonialism'. What happens if we untangle Christian texts from the models of readers, texts, and knowledge which correlate with those framing discourses? What happens if we construe ancient Christianity not as a march towards Europe, or indeed America, but as part of a diffuse, contingent, fragile, and particular history of reading?

"Genetic Manuscript Studies and Multiple Archival Selves: Versions of ‘the Beckettian’ in the Last Plays and Surrounding Archives"

Tonning, Erik. Professor of British Literature and Culture, Department of Foreign Languages, University of Bergen, presently acting Director of the Norwegian Study Centre in the University of York.

In a draft towards the play That Time, a voice describes a character ‘like something out of Beckett’. The critic Ruby Cohn persuaded Beckett to cut the passage as too explicitly self-conscious, yet the entire post-1975 dramatic oeuvre is arguably driven by a consciousness of ‘Beckett’ as stylistic product and performance, possible biographical subject and public image, impossible ‘monadic’ philosophical entity, and writing/writer-in-process. This paper will approach some of Beckett’s last plays as an ‘archival reader’ (see the pre-circulated paper Tonning 2017), seeking to appreciate and enjoy the interstices and complications that arise between these intersecting versions of ‘the Beckettian’.


List of required and suggested reading (version 20180522 .pdf)

Academic skills workshop: Pitch your Research

How do you communicate and present your research? "Pitch your Research" is an acedemic skills workshop where you learn presentation techniques for effective communication, and how to use your body language, voice and present your content in a convincing manner. We will also discuss the tools and techniques that academics can use to boost the impact of their presentation.

Torunn Meyer. Photo: Rolf Nymark

The workshop will be held by actress and presentation skills trainer Torunn Meyer (website).

The workshop is arranged in cooperation with UiODoc, the organization that works to represent, support and improve the academic, educational and social experiences of PhD candidates and postdocs at the University of Oslo.

Registration / List of participants

Registration is now closed.

Registration information

List of participants (.pdf) and their PhD projects (pdf).


Please contact the ATTR Executive Office / Leonora O. Bergsjø.


Published Mar. 24, 2017 3:12 PM - Last modified June 28, 2022 2:01 PM