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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Philosophy and Literature class notes- 23rd friday 2011.

Ø  The discussion of the class centred around the essay “The Philosophical and Aesthetic Foundations of Literary Theories” by Peter V. Zima which revolve around the conceptualisation of the art and literature which Zima tries to explain through the content and expression plane. 

Ø  According to Saussure the signifier is the phonetic sound which for Louis Hjelmslev is the expression plane, and the signified which Saussure explains as the realm of ideas and concepts or the phonetic image, is the content plain for Hjelmslev.

Ø  Kant in discussing aesthetic and concepts argues that it is the concept which people give to the world. But aesthetic is opposite. It suggests that the object is what is giving pleasure to the people. In other words by aesthetic he means that the world is effecting an individual. Keeping this in mind, Zima through his essay is saying that Saussure’s understanding of the relationship between signifier and the signified is comparable to Kant’s dualist theory of knowledge and in particular to his dualist view of the relationship between conceptual and aesthetic cognition. Therefore Kant’s idea of concept and aesthetic is based on Saussure’s understanding of the signifier and the signified which is expression and content plane for Hjelmslev.

Ø  Most discussion on art centres around Kant and Hegel. Kant argues that the aesthetic cannot be conceptualised. He emphasises that aesthetic object should be autonomous. The autonomy of art are strongly opposed to the idea of reducing literature to heteronomous factors such as the author’s biography, the social context or the reactions of the readers or the historical context, etc. To understand Kant, Zima gives example of Saussure- that how he (Saussure) considers the relationship between the signifier and the signified arbitrary. The essayist leaves out an important theorist in this realm, Roland Barthes. If for Saussure the relation between signifier and signified is arbitrary, the same signifier and the signified for Barthes meets in the realm of the myth which he explicitly explains in the essay “Myth Today.” 

Ø  In opposition to Kant’s division of the aesthetic and conceptual, Hegel says that every work of art is conceptual. Hegel uses the word ‘Zeitgeist’ which means the spirit of time. This is also the idea of history. It is very interesting to note that history is born with Hegel. He says that every time has a spirit i.e. the spirit of its own time. It is this spirit of the time which makes history and it is the same spirit of time which is expressed in the literary text. It is because it expresses the spirit of time, art for that matter can be conceptualised. For Hegel any work of art cannot be located beyond the conceptual domain because it expresses a historical consciousness.

Pinto, Anil. Literature and Philosophy. Christ University. 23 Sept. 2011. Lecture.
Zima, Peter. The Philosophy of Modern Literary Theory. New Jersey: The Athlone Press, 1999. Print.

Prepared by: Ipshita Sarkar

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