Reflections on Art: A Source Book of Writings by Artists, Critics, and Philosophers

By Susanne K. Langer | Go to book overview

The Paradox of Aesthetic Meaning

LUCIUS GARVIN

THAT WORKS OF ART may possess a meaning is as readily assumed in some quarters as it is vigorously denied in others. There are those who define "art appreciation" as apprehension of the art object's meaning, and in their hands the term "meaning" receives an honorific connotation as referring to that experience the grasping of which is the highest goal of aesthetic aspiration. There are others who look with profoundest suspicion on any attribution of meaning to an art work, on the ground that such attribution does violence to the aesthetic purity and unity of the art experience. In the presence of such sharp divergence of opinion, one is naturally led to suppose that these two groups are employing the term "Meaning" in somewhat different senses. It may be instructive to examine, with a view to determining their legitimacy, some of the senses in which meaning has been predicated of works of art.

The question arises whether, in the case of both of the groups just alluded to, the meaning in question is construed as one of a special aesthetic kind. It may be assumed that such is the clear intention of those who consider the "appreciation" of the art work's meaning to be the unique aesthetic achievement. In the case of the second group, since their position can hardly be to deny that

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Reflections on Art: A Source Book of Writings by Artists, Critics, and Philosophers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • Beauty as Feeling 3
  • Art and Feeling 10
  • Beauty and Significance 37
  • The Paradox of Aesthetic Meaning 62
  • On the Problem of Artistic Form 71
  • The Aesthetic Problem of Distance 79
  • The Nature of Dramatic Illusion 91
  • Music and Silence. 103
  • Time in the Plastic Arts 122
  • Bergsonism and Music 142
  • Music and Duration 152
  • Notes on the Superposition of Temporal Modes in the Works of Art 161
  • The Concept of "Tonal Body" 174
  • The Essence of Rhythm 186
  • Morphological Poetics 202
  • A Boston Criticism of Whitman 229
  • Modern Ballet 234
  • Art and Craftsmanship 240
  • The Eye Is A Part of the Mind 243
  • On the Problem of Musical Hearing 262
  • The Image in the Rock 298
  • Problems of A Song-Writer 301
  • The Histrionic Experience 311
  • Sketch for A Pychology of the Moving Pictures 317
  • Music and Myth in Their Mutual Relation 328
  • Modern Architecture: Toward A Redefinition of Style 342
  • Index 357
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