Defining a Literary Work Author(s): Stein Haugom Olsen Reviewed work(s): Source: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art

Criticism, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Winter, 1976), pp. 133142 Published by: Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics Stable URL: . Accessed: 27/09/2012 01:35
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact


Wiley-Blackwell and The American Society for Aesthetics are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

reasonable to refer to them all by the same With the advent of Wittgensteinian and word. between every logically independent of any outward member of the group and at least two other manifestation (a text). they failed to exmembers there hold two different relations plain how it is possible to identify an of likeness. and the field was left free for other the urge to postulate and search for an types of view to take over. I . Once this is realized cepted. THE SO-CALLED REVOLUTION in philosophy which was started by Wittgenstein and placed the real literary work." in the author's/reader's mind. work will disappear. (3) Wittgenstein is then invoked to Rylean theories of mind it became clear establish the point that the blanket use of that mentalistic definitions had a weakness a term for a group of objects may be based which it was impossible to overcome: while on no more than a "family resemblance" insisting that the literary experience is between them." It reas being literary in character rather than fers to a heterogeneous group of objects being of some other type. had one important consequence for feel compelled to do this because they are literary theory. theorists have. short-stories and essays. That is. was defeated. Two such views impossible and meaningless essence which became particularly influential: the antiis the distinguishing feature of the literary essentialist view and the object theory. philosophy. I shall that the notion of "family resemblance" therefore here offer a critique of the views fails to explain certain obvious features of and briefly sketch an alternative. Theorists Ryle. essays of a more general kind and more narrowly techSTEIN HAUGOM OLSEN is a r-esearch fellow at the nical essays in history. University of Bergen. the usage of the term "literary work. plays and novels. without referring between which there is no more than a to the text.blances may be found between poems and mon to all literary works other than trivial plays. "Literary work" is a term with imaginative entity or a class of experiences this type of "logic" or "grammar. its "essence. novels and shortones. science." It The anti-essentialist argument applied in fails to explain that there are correct and literary theory would run something like incorrect uses of the term. The mentalistic view of litthe victims of the illusion that a class of erature. which attempted to define the objects referred to by the same word must literary work in terms of either the author's have something in common which makes it or the reader's mental states.STEIN HAUGOM OLSEN Defining A Literary Work shared ground. Norway. And this philosophBoth these views lead the literary theoical problem will have been dissolved in the rist into grave trouble from which it does manner. This is taken for granted and as stories. not seem he can extricate himself if he typical Wittgensteinian The first weak spot in this argument is stays within any of these views. This criticism was widely acfamily resemblance. (2) Realizing this. Family resemthis: (1) there are no characteristics com. according to the anti-essentialists.

The former locates the distinguishing features chess-king is defined by its starting posi. a set of conventions governing the moves of the game. When the mentalistic view was defeated. O LSE N Thirdly.) to describe the objects and the moves (actions) of the game and relate these to each other. if we refuse to place the real work in the mind of the author/ reader) we are not forced to the conclusion that "literary work" is a term which is applied to a set of objects on the basis only of family resemblances. The chessking is an institutional object. is not discussed by any of the theorists favoring the anti-essentialist approach. A typical example and structural (structuralist and phenomof such an object would be a chess-king (or enological "stratification") definitions." "king. between novels and detective stories. less has been heard physical shape. The second weakness of the argument is that (1) is taken for granted." Without such a border we end in a comparative madness where everything. Together with the failure to consider objectively given features of a text as a possible basis for a definition.1 The possibility that the term "literary work of art" is the name of a functionclass constituted by an institution of concepts and rules defining a practice. and the inadequacy of the notion of family resemblance when it comes to distinguishing between literary works and what are not literary works. these limits cannot be used in the definition of a chess-king. There are a number of terms which are names of what we may call function-classes: the identity of the objects which are members of such a class being defined through the function they serve in a community of practitioners using the objects. A game of chess may even be carried out simply by giving a sequence of numbers and letters to represent the moves of the "pieces" as is done in a radio-chess-game. when it has physical shape. belongs to the same group as everything else. etc. somewhere along these separate lines we pass a fuzzy border where we would cease to apply the term "literary work. crime reports and sociological essays on crime. and not by any physical characteristics it may possess. detective stories and crime reports.ated the field.e." "chess-piece. Apart from an institution comprising all these elements there is no chess-king. which was based on the assumption that there exist features in texts which are what constitute these texts as literary works. between sociological essays on crime and other essays in sociology etc. And though. . Object-theories of various kinds have become widely influential and failure to consider the challenge presented by these theories to the anti-essentialist approach makes the latter seem perfunctory and irrelevant to the theoretical needs of literary criticism. the anti-essentialist approach overlooks the fact that even if we grant (1) and reject (2) (i.of the anLi-essentialist view and objectstantial evidence) for the object's being a definitions of different kinds have dominmember of a function-class.of the literary work primarily in its use of tion on the chess-board and the possible moves it may make. the function of the chess-king may put certain limits on this shape. The a tennis-racket.. this weakness in the anti-essentialist attitude leaves us practically with all the problems of definition still unsolved. a banknote.134 technology. in the end. a word).. These fall broadly into two ence of a practice involving the object can categories: semantic (textural) definitions determine its function." "remis" etc. Only the exist. and a set of concepts ("chessboard. However. engineering. an attempt was made to establish an object theory. of II course. but this shape cannot itself be a criterion (though it may be circum. and not by any observable characteristics they possess." "queen. partially or wholly determine their In the last decade. Its existence is dependent on the existence of a practice (the playing of chess-games) involving the movement of pieces on a board (or some other way of registering a change in the relationships between the pieces). The function which these objects serve may.

and in general by the connotations (associations) which an expression has. as it often does when a man changes his circumstances. The opening passage of Heart of Darkness. the statesmen and the rulers. 'This is original sin coming out. eminent men of letters. Yet this passage has no semantic density.'2 135 stop and contemplate it almost like an aesthetic object. the latter looks for identifiable structural patterns in the overall organization of the work as well. The following passage from Eliot ("East Coker. The function of language in literature is not. all go into the dark. cannot be criticized for being inartistic: The Nellie.' the second. and poems need not use semantic density to achieve their artistic effect. or a "well wrought urn" (Cleanth Brooks). No reference to occult mental faculties is needed in criticism and consequently criticism avoids the charge of subjectivism. The generous patrons of art. it is a "verbal icon" (W. C. of course. the presence of semantic density is not a sufficient condition for something being a literary work. a cruising yawl. swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails. it's the fault of his glimpse of newness'. with a suggestion of peeping. metaphor. the semantic definition of the literary work as a text displaying semantic density. The flood had made. Wimsatt).' The glimpse of newness would be fairly simple.) 'or because he thinks it best to show his strength at once. 59. Semantic density is constituted by ambiguity. chairmen of many committees. They all go into the dark. suffers from the weakness that poetic language (semantic density) is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for something being a literary work.' The first 'of' would thus mean 'belonging to. The vacant interstellar spaces." III) displays semantic density of a kind pointed out in the quoted comment: O dark dark dark. The phrase Empson here analyzes becomes semantically dense by carrying so many implications that the reader is forced to . Industrial lords and petty contractors. 'He is dazzled with the brightness of his position. the wind was nearly calm. Unfortunately. makes fault convey a meaning of 'discontinuity' (the sense 'gap' which led to the geological use) so as to be more like glimpse. paradox. I. Beardsley). Distinguished civil servants. as it is in ordinary and scientific discourse. 'this mistake isn't the deputy's fault. and being bound down the river the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide. and leaves various ways of making them both grammar floating about in one's mind. it's Newness's fault. 'this isn't the deputy's fault. but this similarity does not consist in an objectively observable "poetic use" of language. He is forced into looking for grammatical and contextual relationships to grasp the full meaning instead of being able to rely on his linguistic intuitions as he can do with any normal utterance. and still self-conscious. plays. He must look at the phrase as a linguistic fact instead of looking through it to its purpose.' But to impose one on top of the other puts the reader at some distance from either meaning. because of its novelty. More important. K. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is an accepted literary work and it is significantly similar to other literary works when looked at from a certain point of view. ii. Empson is. the vacant into the vacant. no local textural features which turn the language into "literary" language. or separating 'the' fault from the rest of the phrase. instrumental and the linguistic unit becomes itself objectlike.' The fault of newness would be simple. According to the semantic theory local linguistic features give the literary work a peculiar linguistic texture or opacity. The local linguistic features which distinguish the literary work from other texts are objectively observable by all speakers in the language. The captains. merchant bankers. Novels. irony.Defining a Literary Work language. the critic to go to for an example: 'The new deputy is very strict' Whether it be the fault and glimpse of newness (Measure for Measure. 'caused by. This view is expressed in a series of metaphors: the work is said to be "semantically dense" (M. and was at rest. which contains sentences typical of the vast majority of sentences in certain forms of literature. and have for grammar. glimpse suggest 'spying' and a wilful blindness so as to be more like fault. and make sure of his prestige.

" "impressions. The sentence is an apparent definition by a speaker who wants to say something about the human mind." by contrast. or presents its topic at more than one level of "he made a deep impression on me" and presentation at the same time-or. By using the words "perceptions.subject"). the Directory of Directors."4 The Ideas are subjective ("A blind man can passage from Eliot is literary to the extent have no idea of colour") but more perthat it has a multiple function and it would manent ("He formed his ideas on the subbe recognizable as having literary qualities ject over a number of years"). the sense of lordliness." Impressions are subjective as is "that a verbal structure is literary if it in "my impression of London was . "Impressions" is not ordinarily used complementary to "ideas. in the phrase "the statesmen and the rulers." of meaning in which it occurs. that of the Bible and of the writings of (livines." nor are they both thought of as species of perception. which I shall call IMPRESSIONS and IDEAS. And we all go with them. . the speaker characterizes the content of mind as being passive. "The Captains and the Kings (lepart") and. Both ideas and values if it was considered by itself in.136 And dark the Sun and Moon. By subdividing perceptions into text: the textual features that constitute it impressions and ideas the active part of as literary are seen as exclusively local in the mind is by implication emasculated and the mind becomes a receiving organ character. and make their way into our thought or consciousness. and the Almanach ile Gotha And the Stock Exchange Gazette. ulti. this latter. Nobody's funeral. All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two distinct kinds. and takes to itself the sense of pettiness." the rulers appear to belong to an older and less secular stratum of language. Instead of relating semantic density are insufficient to identify perceptions outward to their objects they . The "industrial lords" look one way to "press lords" and similar usages in which "lords" meanis magnates and the other way to the lords temporal and lords spiritual who constitute the Upper House of Parliament (with the implication that modern life has introduced a third category-those whose command of industry has helped them to the peerage) and the word "lords" is even further complicated by its juxtaposition with '"petty contractors". .haustively subdivided into "impressions" tions.5 A possible approach to this passage is to note that the first sentence strikingly juxtaposes three normally overlapping terms. fleeting. for there is no one to bury.stamp an impression in wax." and "ideas" to set up two relations of complement and inclusion. "Chairmen of many committees" is a particularly telling example of the urndermining effect of using plural forms of descriptions usually rcserved for giving the accolade to a single individual. alterna. So this analysis stored there ("He has his own ideas on the contains no reference to this greater con.and impressions are passive: impressions dependent of the context provided by the are inflicted on the mind in the way we rest of the poem ("East Coker.fleeting or elusive as in "I got only a vague tively. "Captains" seems to hover between contemporary language (compare the phrase "captains of in(lustry") and(l the semi-biblical (compare. To show that such local features of and repository only. if one and the same utterance has impression of him" or "I cannot really remore than one function in the structure member what impression he made on me. The difference betwixt these consists in the degrees of force and liveliness wvith which they strike upon the mind. But here perceptions are exexposes its implied meanings and evalua.powers of perception" refers to an act of tures of the language of the passage and the mind. and subjective. gives to "lords.3 O LSE N a piece of discourse as a literary work we shall consider the language of the following passage in the same way as the above quoted commentator considered the language of Eliot's lines. into the silent funeral. The assumption behind this analysis and "ideas. "Perception" as in "a keen aesthetic perception" and "his The commentary draws attention to fea. though a standard occupational classification. in Kipling's Recessional. but the definition is not neutral." and. and ideas are mately. The speaker characterizes the human mind by implication. similarly. the Four Quartets). And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.

But plot and character can be found outside literature. Though we could carry further an analysis of this passage in terms like paradox. that we had mistaken the aim of the passage if we treated it in this way. that the author intended it as such and that it has been fruitfully interpreted on the basis of this assumption. Structural theories suffer from the same weakness as semantic theories. A decision as to whether a text is a literary work or not is thus logically prior to identification of semantic density. But if the literary work is to be seen as an object at all. and the other lacks these. metaphor. tension. only for those who know how to deal with a literary work as an intentional object. paradox. We are likely to know that this is the opening of a regular philosophical treatise. and if they force themselves on our notice this damages the proper function of the passage. This sentence is in fact as semantically dense as any line in the quote from Eliot. III The feature of object-theories which brings them into trouble is that they make . does not make the text into a literary work. The problem for structural theories is that while it is possible to describe an endless series of structures in a literary work. Only then can such features be treated as artistically relevant. If the literary work is "a structure of norms. This is not because such ambiguities.Defining a Literary Work are here related inwards to the subjective content of mind. To decide which structures these are. ambiguity. But its presence. it must be seen as an intentional and institutional object.6This is not to imply that literary and non-literary texts carry the same amount of semantic density. They do not. tension. The difference between the passage from the Treatise and the passage from Four Quartets is not that the one has features of ambiguity. irony) are noticed only when they serve an independently defined function. and perhaps more obviously so. And this is done by invoking the associations of the terms involved. Semantic density is a typical literary feature as is plot and character. and paradox. In the same way. Ambiguity and paradox are valuable features of a literary work but out of place in philosophical argurrment. They become aesthetically significant only by serving some aesthetic function in literary works. Otherwise features of this type are noticed only when they cause a failure in communication. strategies which in the end rest on the assumption that the text in question was intended as a literary work and thus intended to be susceptible to an approach through these strategies. this analysis would seem forced and unnatural. and then we do not talk about semantic density but of vagueness and impreciseness (verbal sloppiness). only some of these structures will be artistically relevant. and point out how this use of language expresses a complex vision of the metaphysical nature of the human mind. ignoring that these features (of ambiguity. to identify a feature "semantic density" in a text which has some artistic significance.e. the decision must already have been reached that the text is to be treated as a literary work. In other words. one needs certain strategies defined by convention. The weakness of the semantic theories is that they point to certain objectively given 137 linguistic features in a text as the distinguishing features of the literary work. realized only partially in the actual experience of its many readers." 7 then one quickly finds oneself in the same dilemma as with semantic theories: one identifies features in thle literary work as if it were an object independent of human institutions and purposes. semantic density can be found (if one looks) in non-literary texts. The "objectively given" structure is given only for those who can use this special approach. which is not normally noticed because it serves no function in the text. I think. metaphors and connotations cannot be identified as being "at work" in the passage. connotations. The difference is that in the case of the Treatise we cannot see the point of hunting for such features. and they are not themselves constitutive of aesthetic significance. i. But we should feel.

but they would also create the possibility of the identification and description of such features. They would be rules constitutive of the practice in the same way as the rules of chess are constitutive of that game. artistic value. to be able to ask for money as reparation. They reach agreement on a sum to be paid but the Gypsy King intervenes and exposes the husband as having arranged the situation in which Partridge was discovered with his wife. it may be maintained that an inquiry into the "nature" of the literary work should be an inquiry into the concepts and conventions shared by the community of readers. literary conventions and concepts would serve no useful function and fall into disuse.8 Furthermore. seeing that in our culture there has always been a literary practice along the lines of the suggested model. no artistic features. what is artistic unity. On their way to London. to illustrate through an example some of the logical presuppositions a reader makes when approaching a literary passage. But an adequate definition of a literary work must make some reference to the social context which creates the possibility of identifying and describing literary works. and so on.138 O LS E N no reference to anything else than the text of the work. Tom and Partridge run into a rainstorm and seek shelter with some gypsies who are having a celebration in a barn. He is brought before the Gypsy King to be punished and Tom immediately offers money to the husband to avoid further trouble. what is artistic value. what is a correct interpretation of a work. or the money-system. and to give a sketch of such concepts and conventions as one believes to be constitutive of literary practice. it is necessary also that the institution should involve actions and objects governed by the conventions and described by the concepts: if texts were never intended to be interpreted as literary works and never assumed to be thus intended. During their visit. to the fact that there is a community of authors and readers in the sense that they share a set of concepts and conventions which enable them to deal with a given text as a literary work of art. One step in the solution to this problem is to assume that Tom Jones is a literary work. or the judicial system is an institution. rather than an inquiry directed at the object itself. Given this background. All in all such conventions would determine not only what features of a text are literary artistic features. Institutional conventions and concepts will determine the answer to such questions as what is artistic significance. Authors and readers possess a common institutional framework which allows authors to intend texts as literary works and the reader to interpret them as intended to be taken as literary works. and apart from the institution or practice of literature there would be no literary works. starts making advances to a gypsy woman and is apprehended by the woman's husband. the model must stress that in addition to a framework of conventions and concepts. involving notions of artistic unity. It is to assign a role to the text in an institution of which one knows the rules. The reader who meets this episode in the text of Tom Jones will have a problem about how to approach it. It is not possible to prove that literary practice is an institution in the way that chess. There is some reason to believe that literature is a social institution and literary works institutional objects defined by the function they serve in the institution. Partridge gets drunk. no artistic unity or design. That is. the reader must approach . what is the cognitive status of literary discourse. thus providing some sort of account of the literary institution. etc. But it is possible to suggest that the reader tries out this approach in his own experience. As an example let us look at an episode from Tom Jones. artistic function. or any other such features we recognize as having to do with the aesthetic nature of the literary work. no structural elements. To identify a text as a literary work is to accept that the interpretive and evaluative conventions of this institution should be used in dealing with the text in question. in pursuit of Sophia. The husband is duly punished and the innocence of Tom and Partridge established.

scientific. It is worth noting that this pattern is not "given" in the episode in the sense that one would notice it no matter how one looked at the text. but the fulfillment of these aims may not rest on very definite conventions shared by author and reader. In the episode in question the author provides numerous clues for Tom. and consequently with a set of strategies for dealing with it which he knows to be appropriate. And here the contour of a strategy appears: the significance of episodes or other structural elements and the overall artistic significance must be established together since they are interdependent. and conclusions. Some of thle approaches will be well defined as is the case with historical. he will have the possibility of treating a given text as a literary work in addition to his other options. what such and such terms mean within the system which constitutes the discipline. Tom and Partridge are fooled. So the reader must look for two things: an overall design and a design of the episode which will fit into the overall design. Other approaches to texts will be less well defined. a double approach to the text may lead to a confusion . and while the reader takes the hint. arousal etc. The pattern of naivete leading to danger and unpleasantness is significant in the overall interpretation of the novel as a quest where the hero must learn to distinguish between reality and 139 appearances. A hypothesis about the former is therefore necessary to identify the latter. When he is faced with a text the reader will have a series of options. instruction. of entertainment. and philosophical discourse in our culture. The literary option is probably the most highly conventionalized way of treating a text.Defining a Literary Work the text with a generic conception of what sort of text this is. And one discovers these interlocking patterns as a result of applying certain interpretive conventions to the text. The assumption that Tom Jones is a literary work involves automatically the assumption that the above episode has some artistic significance which it gains by contributing something to the general artistic design of the novel. standards of truth: what counts as relevant facts and what sort of relationship there must be between facts and statements. The reader who looks for some way to tie this episode to other episodes in a general structure will observe that it repeats a pattern which appears in most of the situations in which Tom and Partridge find themselves on their way to London: they are deceived by appearances because they are willing to accept other people's interpretation of events without question. This naivete repeatedly brings them into dangerous and unpleasant situations. It stands out as the structure of the episode only when one looks at it from thle vantagepoint of an interpretive hypothesis about the overall artistic significance of the work. An attempt to grasp the artistic significance of an episode or other feature will necessarily involve the reader in an attempt to grasp the overall artistic design of a work. Partridge. A reader is necessarily a member of a language-community with a cultural tradition which for the language-communities of the present "western world" is pretty similar. honesty and deceit to overcome the obstacles which prevent him from marrying the heroine. clear. When a reader shares in the institution of literature. amusement. how to approach it. valid arguments.. defined by the cultural context. and the reader alike to enable them to see through the deception. There may be general expectations of other purposes to be served. These areas of discourse have developed into "disciplines" with standards of interpretation: what counts as premises. and while it does not exclude the possibility of using a text for different purposes. and adequate argument and what are important problems. It is with these preconceptions the reader approaches the episode in question if he has decided that Tom Jones is a literary work. There is no artistic significance of elements apart from an overall artistic design and the reader must always move back and forth between the two to construct a coherent pattern of elements working together in an artistic unity. and standards of evaluation: what constitutes a precise. though some conventional background there must be.

from the other angle. The only type of evidence these in- terpretive rules can handle are features of the work itself. Lady. Though they cannot be exhaustively described in an article. this includes the negative assumption that it is not to be construed as serving any of the normal goal-directed functions of language. shepherd. but reflecting on these genre-conventions. shepherd from the hill. There is no situation to which this sentence can be referred in which it served its conventional function of expressing a complaint.140 OLSEN of literary and non-literary judgments which will disturb literary understanding (interpretation) and appreciation (evaluation). And. These are concerned withi distinguishing literary discourse as a type by defining its relationship to the producer (author). It is quite possible that what an author pronounces his work to "mean. The same is the case for the author's beliefs and opinions at the time he wrote the work.e. the author's utterance will have the status of an alternative interpretation and not of evidence to be used in interpretation. The second aspect of the autonomy of a literary work is the convention to treat it as non-serious or etiolated discourse. receiver (reader). Utterances and behavior falling outside literary practice can therefore play no role in interpretation. When a reader assumes a text to be a literary work. the reader should keep two things in mind: (1) they are supposed to be explications of what readers do when they deal with literary works. i. not what they claim they do. but if he intends something as a literary work (or. The conventions and concepts of literary practice determine how a reader is to deal with a text intended as a literary work." should claslh with the "meaning" found through an acceptable interpretation. What counts as good/bad interpretations is decided by institutional conventions.") is not a real complaint. logically. and (2) they are explications of a literary aesthetic approach to a text. but there is no framework of facts to which these need to be referred (or to which they were intended . were no crime. "The Scholar Gypsy") is not really a request (or a piece of advice or an order). Both this and the above quoted sentence retain their functions as request and complaint within the context of the poem. No arguments vwill be offered to settle these controversies or to underpin the present view. The first autonomy convention defines the relationship between the work and the author. Go. in the question whether or not a text is meant as a literary work. This cluster of conventions can all be accommodated under the label autonomy conventions. As they are developed here they will be recognized as foci of controversy in literary theory.. a brief sketchl is possible. if the reader assumes something to be intended as a literary work) then he takes responsibility for following the conventions of literary practice. The first type we may call genre-conventions. If this poem was read to an audience among which there was a shepherd. The conventions may be usefully divided into three categories. Thus Go. and the further circumstances were such that this sentence could be understood with reference to these circumstances. And the opening lines from Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" ("Had we but world enough and time/This coyness. So though a literary work is an intentional object there is such a thing as an "intentional fallacy": the use of the autlhor's independent utterances and behavior as evidence in interpretation. and untie the wattled cotes! (Matthew Arnold. and texts may be interpreted and evaluated also in such other ways even though an aesthetic approach is what makes them interesting in the first place. Among these are rules for interpretation and standards for evaluating interpretations. Such an approach does not exclude other approaches which in their way may be valuable. the shepherd could still not take it as a request without becoming the victim of a ridiculous misunderstanding. An author is the final authority on what sort of text he meant to produce. for they call you. and the world.

contrasts. in addition to genre-conven./The tide is full. cance. conversation."meaning" of other elements? How does tions. They serve the double function of The answers to these questions will give an enabling the reader to see a text as made insight into literary practice. the work of art. Interpretive conventions define the thle "meaning" of single elements conconcepts of artistic "meaning" or signifi. etc. evaluative convenaunt in the country? The answer to this question must establish a "meaning" of the tions which are also geared to deal with illness which harmonizes with the "mean. but whiclh is often debated as is part of a general pattern of association if it were an indlependent issue: the fiction. There will also be such whyalso has a fact-stating function. and truth in literature. and thus an alien and unnecessary element There has been violent theoretical disagree. interpretive and evaluative to respond to a literary work. A reader identifies lines from Arnold's "Dover Beach" de. . .death. have lost their assertive function and the parallels.Defining a Literary Work 141 to be referred) in order to grasp their full association between the rural paradise to purpose. To understand thle nature of artistic sigment about the role of reference. A trained reader will know ing a special type of why-question in con.fluous. Maylie (in Oliver Twist) become suddenly. However. There are. finally. But one observation insight into a series of complex problems: must be made: there is no debate about What conventions do we use to assign a factual issues in literary criticism as there "meaning" to an element? What are acceptis in philosophy. and this is not thle place nificance or artistic purpose one has to gain to offer an argument. are etiolated. how to nection with literary works: why does Rose deal with it. element to "harmonize" with the tions. quence. oc.between happiness and death introduced ality convention. Presence of artistic "meaning" Rose Maylie's illness establishes a close will be positive. we up of elements and to interrelate them in should not believe that this theoretical a pattern which is the artistic design. advising. in addition to when Oliver is first shot at the house of its many other functions of requesting. and most readers will dangerously. asking. and thus suggests that the happiness vention which is really a consequence of experienced there is not of this world. Thus knowledge is necessary for the existence of they sanction and provide ways of answer. characters.the practice. how to describe the practice in she is living happily with Oliver and her which he is engaging. belief. the development of the plot. It has no assertive function. So this by answering a why-question about its ardescription is not susceptible to judgments tistic significance. like other types of utterances. ") they. and Finally there is a third autonomy con. absence of such "meaning" . There are. science.questions to be answered concerning the ments are susceptible to judgments about language or diction of works (see the truth or falsity. and state. and unexplainably ill when not know. . He need not know.tribute to the overall artistic purpose? etc. Failure to find such a about truth or falsity since it was never question to answer in connection with a intended as a statement fitted to a real-life feature indicates that this feature is supercontext. the narrator's comment. Language. when statements quote from Nowottny analyzing the pasoccur in literary works ("The sea is calm sage from "East Coker. warning. Their only context is the poem." III). irrelevant to the artistic structure curring as it does in the context of a poem. They speeches.9 which the characters have withdrawn. the arrangetonight. the moon lies ment of words on the page.literary discourse in terms of artistic siging" of the other elements of the work: aesthetically relevant feature in a work scribe a non-existing situation. and this is all that is required. However. fair/Upon the straits. and history able reasons for preferring one "meaning" to another? What is it for a "meaning" of which focus as disciplines on issues. It the last one. the Maylies and is seriously ill as a consecomplaining.

third ed." Philosophy and Rhetoric." Analysis (1958). thus in effect recommending that readers pay attention to certain works rather than others on the basis that some works will be artistically more worthwhile than others. 9An attempt to explore the loll-scrious use of language in literature iln terms of mimesis has been made by Richard Ohman ill "Speech Acts and the Definition of Literature. reprinted in Philippa Foot ed." "diction. This vocabulary consists of a set of descriptive terms like "plot.142 or lack of artistic purpose will be a liability in a work. 1967)." And there exists a wide variety of evaluative terms which identify good-making features of literary works. Critical evaluation is thus not social evaluation. It is rather a statement revealing something about the conceptual scheme with which *we approach a literary work." The Philosophical Review. The analysis of this vocabulary must go hand in hand with an analysis of the constitutive conventions of literary practice. It is through this type of analysis that we may gain some insight into the "essence" of a literary work. Theories of Ethics (London. These are mostly borrowed from other spheres of life since literature deals with "central human concerns. (London. M. 1968). p. 64 (1955). Anscombe in "On Brute Facts. 1969). "does not define his words but establishes their powers by placing them in a great variety of contexts. as Frye and others seem to think. pp. (Cambridge. OLSEN 1This notion of an institution or an institutional practice has been developed by John Rawls in "Two Concepts of Rules. Quite right. 4Ibid. 5 (1973). 3 Winifred Nowottny. Seven Types of Ambligllity. A poetic text is a text where the consideration of the po'wers of the words will be expectedl to contribute somethillg to all artistic purpose. and it is therefolre meaningless to look for connotations and grammatical reclations (the "powers" of language). (Princeton. which helps the reader to identify devices which are known to be used as vehicles for artistic significance. makes essentially the same sort of suggestion.. Evaluation is directed at establishing a list of priorities for readers." "imagery." says Northrop Frye. 8 Christopher Butler in an article "What is a Literary Work?" New Literary History. The concepts of the literary institution are embodied in a critical vocabulary in which literary understanding and appreciation is expressed and which is therefore constitutive of literary insights. 1953). Then there must be a set of interpretive terms. 334." Aalltotny of Criticisim.uman Natlure. . 1888). But this is not. 4 (1971). I. ed. 6" ." "character. The latter can only be an evaluation of the institution as such while critical evaluation is concerned with the single work in relation to other works considered within the framework of the practice. In other texts no purpose is expected scvcdl by these powers. . \'ol. by G. A Treatise of H2. Theory of LieratliLrc. 2 William Empson. E. 5 David Hume. 7Wellek andl Warren. Sclby-Bigge (Oxford. 1957). an empirical statement." "setting." etc. third revised ed. 92-93. but does not specify what the rules andl concepts of the institution arc. 2. 1966). (London.i. p. p. Vol. the poet. (London. p. and by John Searle in Speech A4cts. 35. \'ol. 150. . The Language Poets Use.l.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful