There is Something Outside the Text
The most plausible reason, I think, is that our interest in art is an interest in intentional action, even if the intention does not extend to the meaning of the work. Art always belongs to a specific tradition or practice, with which the artist is deliberately – though sometimes perversely – engaged. The intention of the artist is relevant, primarily, to the form of the work; its meanings are fixed in turn by the conventions of the form, to which artist and audience defer. It is not up to the composer whether a passage of music is bleak or courageous; nor are the facts of motive and theme in fiction immediately responsive to the author's will.
The autonomy of artistic meaning, and its dependence on form, can be seen most readily in contrived examples, like Robert Graves' recasting of "The Solitary Reaper" in "Wordsworth by Cable":
SOLITARY HIGHLAND LASS REAPING BINDING GRAIN STOP MELANCHOLY SONG OVERFLOWS PROFOUND VALE
If you are inclined to object that the words have also changed, compare the recent setting of Phil Rizzuto's baseball commentary as free verse:
Challenge to YouthIt is not a consequence of this account that the artist's intention is never directly relevant. Is the ending of the Shostakovich Fifth ironic, "as if someone were beating you with a stick, and saying 'Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing'"? That depends, in part, on whether Volkov's Testimony (in which those words are attributed to Shostakovich) is true or false.
I tell you what I would change:
That NO BALK to second base.
You can do anything to second base.
Yeah, I never did like that.
What would you change?
The more pervasive effect of the generic approach is to suggest that questions of interpretation are always historical, and thus to vindicate critical interest in the artist and her context. There is no sharp distinction between the interpretation of art – a certain kind of cultural artifact – and the understanding of culture in general.
The study of criticism can therefore take two different forms: it may be the philosophy of history – not confined to artists and their work – or it may be the history of painting, or the novel, or the string quartet. There is a sense in which Socrates was right to doubt that interpretation is an art, that the rhapsodist has a single expertise. If the philosophy of criticism is meant to investigate, a priori, the principles of meaning and interpretation that apply to art, as such, it follows that there is no such thing.