Stephen and Walter tries to explain in details how the theoretical accounts of intentions will always go wrong. They go further in taking an analysis based on a very influential account to discuss the role played by interpretative assumptions or beliefs towards literary criticism. They think that belief and intention are very vital in theoretical enterprise and their arguments clearly depict how they are against theory. They claims that, “If we are right, then the whole enterprise of critical theory is misguided and should be abandoned.”
The first part of the article discusses the meaning and intention of a text. According to E. D. Hirsch, a text, “"is, and can be nothing other than the author's meaning" and "is determined once and for all by the character of the speaker's intention."(pp. 224,240). Hirsch discussion points out many weaknesses since he works on a more selective system of probabilities, and leaves a speaker in a tricky situation in determining what really a text mean. It is realized that Hirsch is aimed at imaginations rather than taking a stand in interpretation before his intention.
The second part talks about the language and speech acts. Stephen and Walter argue that the marks that are produced by chance are not in any way words but they only resemble them. They contrast with Juhl who believes that the marks are words provided there is an intention to make the arks utterances. The authors believe that marks which lack intention can be categorized as language. De Man's claims that, “When confronted with what seems to be a speech act, read it as language.”(pp.40).
The 3rd part of the essay highlights the relation between theory and practice. The aim of theory is to base its interpretation towards an object on a direct encounter. The interpretation will not in a way distorted by the beliefs or influence of an interpreter. Fish writes that, "then one believes that what one believes is true, and conversely, one believes that what one doesn't believe is not true" (p. 361). This statement does not match the argument of the authors and states that theory and practice cannot go hand in hand.
I think that the comparisons that are drawn by the authors based on the arguments simply play a great role since readers are easily convinced. Stephen and Walter discussions against theory are significant since they guide us to study the work of other authors.
Stephen K. & Walter B. Against theory. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 8, No. 4 (summer, 1982), pp. 723-742. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1343194.