Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thinking of Literature as Art

We're supposed to be thinking about Art now in TOK, and there are some interesting ideas that can be transferred to English A1 - as to how we appreciate literature as an art form.

Two excerpts from Reuben Abel's Man is the Measure:

"Joseph Conrad's short story 'The Secret Sharer' is about a young sea captain on his first voyage in command. The captain protects a stowaway who is a murderer and a fugitive. The simple adventure has profound and ambiguous overtones - of delusion, homosexuality, the force of authority, the conflict between morality and justice, the story of Cain and Abel, the doppelganger, Conrad's own life. There is little point in inquiring what the author's 'real' intention was, or what the 'true' interpretation is: any hypothesis which can be supported by evidence in the text ought to be thoughtfully examined and joyfully experienced. To insist on the 'real meaning' is to mistake literature and art for idealized science. A work of art is not a sense datum; it is not merely something perceived, but rather something interpreted. And in the richness, multiplicity, and range of its legitimate interpretations lie its fertility and vigor as a work of art" (257).

"The essential requisite [for a work of art] is that the materials be so formed that they are finally experienced as a unity, whether they extend timelessly through space (as do painting and architecture) or whether they cumulate nonspatially through time (as does music). The frame of a painting, the pedestal of a statue, the proscenium in a theater, the silence that precedes and follows a piece of music, and the space around a cathedral all act to enclose the work of art in what Rilke called a 'circle of solitude.' Thus it is experienced as an isolated, unified, instantaneous presence" (258).

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