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The Problematic Status of the Literary Work of Art in Contemporary Aesthetics

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Developing a system that would reunite all the arts and account for their similarities and differences on the basis of a shared set of criteria was one of the main objectives of the aesthetic discipline, whose roots run deep into romantic philosophy. The diversity of modernist experiments poses a number of challenges to such systematisation and invites theoreticians to start anew. To illustrate some of the main difficulties arising from this situation, particularly in the case of the literary work of art, this article will focus on Gérard Genette’s two volume work L’œuvre de l’art (1994, 1997). Genette’s main purpose is to offer a conceptual framework for the description of the work of art that would find a place in the system for its material mode of existence. His objective is achieved at the expense of the coherence of the model since the structure of what he terms allographic and autographic works proves to be asymmetrical. Thus, the autographic works are presented as having a dual nature: transcendental and immanent (that is, physical), while the allographic works comprise three different levels: transcendence – immanence (understood as ideal) – and (physical) manifestation. After confronting Genette’s premises with the conclusions of several disciplines which study the same object of immanence from a different perspective, this paper will propose a revised and more coherent version of his system.

Affiliations: 1: “Babeş-Bolyai” University, Romania


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