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YURI BOREV

AESTHETICS

AESTHETICS: THE THEORY AND METHODOLOGY OF ART CRITICISM
The Science of the Problems Posed by and the Instruments
Used in the Analysis of Art

AESTHETICS: THE METHODOLOGY OF CRITICISM

The Critical Method and Its Structure

The critical method is the instrument of analyzing art. It is true of course that a critic with polished taste may intuitively identify some essential features of the art work, but not always and not fully.
A trully analytical penetration into the essence of any work, and indeed of any object of inquiry, involves five successive intellectual operations which constitute the scientific method of analysis.
The first operation is anticipation, "choice of initial position", i.e. determining the approach, principles and direction of analysis and its preliminary paradigm (preliminary, anticipated conception of the meaning of the work which may be borne out or refuted by the investigation). This philosophical stage involves a general view of the object in a broad context. Anticipation determines and controls the subsequent thought. The choice of the initial paradigm is determined by the cultural and thought tradition, the previous "thought material" of the given area of knowledge and the social orientation of the investigator.
The second operation is approaching and going round the object, i.e. approaching it to within touching distance, which makes it possible to see it at medium range and in close-up, to look at it at close quarters from different sides and get an idea of the meaning and significance of its external relations.
The third operation is penetration, i.e. moving into the depth of the object by using various methods and operational techniques, cracking its shell, invading it, identifying its structural elements. At that stage the meaning and significance of the inner relationships within the object, its structure, organization and articulation of its elements are revealed.
The fourth operation is understanding the dynamics, i.e. revealing the meaning and significance of the social functioning of the object.
The fifth operation is understanding the essence, i.e. gaining a comprehensive view of the object by summing up, generalizing the results obtained at all the previous stages of analysis. Synthesis takes the investigator back to the general view, but on a new turn of the spiral, with detailed vision of the object and its external and internal structure. The fifth operation leads to concrete-general judgements about the object.
A convincing argument in favour of the proposed structure of the method is that the methodology in philosophy and individual sciences has evolved through the same stages (philogenesis and ontogenesis coincide). In Ancient Greece methodology was marked by a general undetailed view of the world offered by spontaneous dialectics. Metaphysics absolutized certain approaches and, at a later stage, dissecting operations to reveal the elements of the structure of the world without concerning itself with their living interaction.
Modern dialectical thinking has returned to the overall view of the phenomena supplemented by concrete details and knowledge of their dynamics.
The method of art criticism is determined by five factors: First, by art itself. The method of criticism is an "analogue" of its object, i.e. the literary and art process and its laws, the art work and its characteristics. Generalization of artistic experience proceeds from artistic practice to theory and from theory to methodology, and then to the practice of critical analysis of art.
Second, the experience of contemporary art which is relevant to the study of the whole history of art. The present state of art is the key to the analysis of all the preceding forms. Every major discovery in art gives a new impulse to the elaboration of the principles, approaches and methods of critical analysis.
Third, the perception of the object of analysis (art work, art process) is not direct but passes through the prism of the world outlook which orients the critic towards certain phenomena, trends and currents in art.
Fourth, criticism's own tradition, the "thought material" accumulated by it. Everything of methodological value for the modern stage of criticism must be taken from preceding art criticism.
Fifth, the methodological experience of other sciences. For example, the methods of sociological studies can be effectively used to determine the social status and impact of art works, tastes and artistic preferences of the public. Mathematical and statistical methods are usable in the study of the rhythmic organization of a literary text. The experience of linguistics is helpful in the semiotic analysis of an art work.
Three essential questions are asked in determining the methodology of art analysis: why, what and how to study in an art work?
The aim (why? ) of critical analysis is to influence all the links in the art process: reality – artist – art work – recipient (the public) – reality.
An analysis of an artistic text must cover (what? ) the language, style, artistic conception, artistic impact and aesthetic significance, i.e. all the semantic and value aspects of the work. And that is achieved (how? ) through a systematic and comprehensive analysis of the work.
A key problem of comprehensive analysis is an organic combination of the value and interpretational approaches, which is achieved through parallel application of the above described five-step method to each of them. The analysis of each of the four value layers of the work "dovetails" with the analogous level of interpretational analysis.
Let us now dwell on each of the five stages of the critical analysis of an art work.

General Judgement of a Work

The method of critical analysis is the type of attitude and principles of reading and evaluation. The first stage is the choice of initial position on the basis of the world view which incorporates all the previous thought experience. That experience is superimposed, as it were, on the art work and its previous interpretations to produce a general judgement of the work, a paradigm of reading, and the guidelines for further all-round and detailed analysis.
Before investigating it is necessary to have a rough idea of what it is one needed to investigate. Emile Zola has a character of a doctor who spent a lifetime dissecting dogs but could never find anything because he did not know what to look for. The initial position and paradigm are not of course rigidly fixed for the whole process of analysis. As the analysis proceeds the preliminary findings may necessitate "readjustment" in the original position and paradigm.
The initial premises give the first impulse to the analysis but they are all the time being checked against the results.
From a meeting of the initial position and the artistic text and its previous readings in other critical works there arises the first level of interpretation, i.e. a general view of the work, a still undetailed judgement about it, an abstract reading that has not yet involved concrete detail. This leads to the paradigm of the interpretation of the work, the initial type of reading. Further on the general judgement will be concretized and fleshed out with detail and "readjusted" in the process of analysis whose guiding line is the initial position.
The historical approach is the chief interpretational guideline, the general principle of critical analysis determining all approaches and methods, controlling all operations and procedures.
The historical approach demands attention to how a given phenomenon has arisen, what have been the main stages in its development, and what the phenomenon is today. The scientific approach consists not in reducing all the artistic forms to their objective social causes but in deriving the necessity of these forms from the given social relations. The historical approach relies on dialectical thinking and implies a study of phenomena in their development, in their interconnection with other phenomena, and in the light of contemporary experience, i.e. the use of historically higher forms to understand the preceding forms. The historical approach requires that an art work should be seen as a link in the artistic process, as belonging to a certain artistic trend and in comparison with tradition.
Significance for mankind is a value guideline in which the historical approach is reflected. The first interpretational step, the choice of the initial position of analysis, is accompanied by the first evaluation step, the choice of the initial position and shaping of a preliminary general idea of the value of a given work.
Value analysis makes it possible to determine the actual place of a work of art in the national and world art process.
Value criteria are historically changeable: some phenomena in the art of past periods remain unnoticed until a system of values is formed which elevates these phenomena to great prominence.
Determining the value of a work means understanding, through the process of interpretation, of the significance of all its meaningful elements for mankind, revealing the degree of freedom in them.

Determining the Meaning and Value of External Links
(Aesthetic Relationships) of an Art Work

Method is a way of considering the meaning and value which ensures a certain approach of the critic to the work and direct contact with it. An art work has many dimensions and sides to it, and it should be contacted from different sides using various approaches.
A scientifically valid approach in art criticism considers the art work from a specific side and the possible number of such approaches is determined by the art work, its properties, relationship and "configuration". The sequence of approaches is governed by the movement from the general to the particular and concrete, i.e. from reality (the sociological and gnoseological approaches) to culture (historical-cultural, comparative-historical approaches), and from culture to the artist, the creative process, the art work and its fate (biographical, creatively genetic approaches).
In addition to "single-contact" approaches which present an art work in close-up, as it were, and reveal only one of its sides, there can be "multiple-contact" approaches which make it possible to cover two or three sides of the art phenomenon and reveal it at medium range.
The historical approach is a guarantee of the monism of methodology. While ensuring an all-round coverage of the object of investigation, the diversity of approaches does not degenerate into methodological pluralism and electicism but becomes a factor of all-round analysis due to the control from the philosophical principles and the common sociological nature of such approaches.
Reality is the key to the meaning of an art work, for the latter reflects social reality. The relevant aspects of the art work are revealed by the sociological approach which is not the same as the vulgar sociological approach that reduces all the complexities of artistic processes to economic causes.
The world of art is always a creatively transformed reflection and interpretation of life. For that reason it must be approached gnoseologically (determining the degree of truthfulness, correspondence of art to reality). Absolutization of the gnoseological approach leads to a primitive view of art as an illustration or slavish copying of reality.
Culture is the key to the interpretation of an art work because the latter arises from a certain cultural tradition and exists, changes and realizes itself socially within its mainstream. It is in the field of culture that the world of artistic ideas and images is expressed, fixed and passed on to other people. It provides a code for reading, assimilating and understanding a work. It is, then, only in the context of culture that a work can realize itself as a social phenomenon. The historical-culturological approach proceeds from the conception of an art work as part of the spiritual culture. The comparative-historical approach focuses attention on the interrelationships within the same art. The methodological ideas of that approach have been formulated by Veselovsky, a Russian literary scholar (1838-1906). The comparative-historical analysis reveals the main interactions in the art process, the typological similarities of artistic phenomena and similar patterns that link art works with the social reality which has produced them.
So, the historical-cultural approach concerns itself with the interaction of an art work with the broad cultural context, in particular with other arts, while the comparative-historical approach proceeds from the interactions within a certain layer of artistic culture referring to one art and has to do with the content, thought material, form and artistic language. The typology of artistic interactions provides the theoretical basis for modern historical-cultural and comparative-historical analysis of an art work.
The destinies of the artist and his work also offer clues to its meaning.
An art work is always unique and original, reflecting the personality of its creator. That side of art forms the subject of the biographical approach which provides a method for reading an art work through the personality of the author. Victor Hugo believed that writers should be judged not from the point of view of rules and genres which are outside nature and outside art, but according to the immutable laws of every art and the special laws associated with the personality of each author.
Using as his take-off point the aesthetic ideas of the romantics, the
French literary scholar Sainte-Beuve developed the biographical approach of which he is considered to be the founder. He was interested in the study of correspondence, conversations, thoughts, character traits, moral qualities, in short, the biographies of great writers.
Tynyanov and Eichenbaum introduced the notion of "literary life" essential for the biographical method. It draws attention to the inter-relationship between artists and their personal qualities and psychology. That tended to bring literary criticism closer to fiction prose. For example, Tynyanov's own studies often developed into novels about poets which presented vivid pictures of literary life.
The personality of the author leaves such a strong imprint on his work that it is usually possible to identify the author from the structure and style of a work.
The second operation, i.e. approaching and going round the art work, is based on the creative-genetic approach. To understand the structure of a work one has to know how it was produced. An interpretation of an art work is greatly aided by the history of its creation, the act of composition, the process of writing and all its aspects: psychological (the poet's state of mind, his artistic sensations), textological (variants of the text as recorded in rough drafts), chronological (the time of writing), general circumstances in which the work was written, objectively physical (on what paper and with what kind of pen). The creative-genetic approach is primarily concerned with the story of the creation of a work of art.
Sometimes the artist himself formulates the conception of his work, but even in such a lucky case the investigator has to interpret and sometimes to decipher and correct the author's statement, while the textual and creative history of a work is a reliable way of revealing its original conception. For example, there are three main drafts of Griboyedov's Wit Works Woe, four drafts of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and five drafts of Gogol's The Inspector. There are almost 900 revisions in Wit Works Woe.
Textological analysis compares drafts, rough copies, preparatory notes, etc. to identify the direction in which the author's intention moved, and uses all these materials to interpret the art work.
The above-mentioned second operation reveals the value of external relationships, the wealth and originality of the aesthetic relations that have found an artistic expression in the art work.
Investigating the value of the external relationships of the art work is aimed at establishing the degree to which it enriches and expands the artist's aesthetic relation to the world. The value analysis procedure has to do with a comparison of aesthetic relations recorded in the art work against the established "norm" of the period. The supreme criterion is aesthetic wealth.

Determining the Meaning and Value of Internal Relationships (Structure)
of the Artistic Text

Method, i.e. the type of ihterpretational and evaluative operationsand devices, ensures penetration into the object of investigation in order to reveal its anatomical structure, dissect the artistic tex into elements and study each of them. This is the third operation which includes the operational techniques of structural and stylistic analysis and the devices of microanalysis which give insight into the meaning of the inner structure of the artistic text.
The inner organization of an artistic text has not only a qualitative but also a quantitative side, i.e. the rhythmic structure, the frequency of the use of the same words, rhymes and artistic devices.
The quantitative parameters of the art work can be revealed through statistical methods. But it can only be scientifically useful if it has a sociological basis. Only a scientifically rigorous use of mathematical and other "art-metric" methods can yield a positive effect. One would do well to remember that Neumann, an American mathematician, a co-founder of cybernetics, stressed that the science he was engaged in was only a small and very simple part of life. If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they are not aware of how complex life is. And, we may add, of how complex art is.
One of the instruments of operational penetration into the artistic text is structural analysis which studies the artistic text as an organized set of elements. Structural analysis is carried out within the framework of the historical principle and is in fact stop-analysis, an operational technique that makes it possible to probe into the structure of the work, investigating it as a system of methods stemming from the overall artistic aim. The possibility of freely changing the parameters and grounds for dividing up the whole into elements renders structural analysis flexible and provides operational scope for the research, makes it possible to "dissect" an artistic text "from various angles" and to penetrate into its structure and reveal its conceptual meaning.
In structural investigation the division of a work into components is merely an analytical operation which does not impinge upon the wholeness of the work and does not contradict the principle of all-round artistic perception.
Structural analysis presupposes identification of indivisible elements in the object; it considers the whole as a system not reducible to a sum of its elements; it recognizes the capacity of the whole (the system) to change, transform and self-regulate, the capacity to preserve its nature while changing. The main principles of structural analysis of an artistic text are: identifying the grounds for division into elements (colour, time or space); the study not of individual elements but the system of their interactions, the whole consisting of elements; synchronic approach, i.e. the study not of the history of the creation of the artistic text but of its structure and its functioning.
An art work is a system which is both closed and open. Structuralism tends to consider the art work as closed while the historical approach tends to consider it as open. So, the dialectics of closedness and openness can only be understood through a combination of the historical (diachronic) and structural (synchronic) approaches. The structural approach is a moment of history like rest is a moment of movement.
Structural analysis, according to some of its opponents, "takes music apart like a corpse", i.e. anatomizes, not studies the living work. There is some truth in that metaphor. And yet several centuries ago doctors and artists (among them was the great Michelangelo) dissected corpses, secretly and at the risk of life, in order to understand the living man. Gogol quoted Pushkin as saying that the task of the critic is to take part and define an art work.
So, even Pushkin, the author of the formula "he dismembered music as a corpse" which is usually directed against structuralism, was not an opponent of analytical "dismemberment" of an art work.
To be sure an art work is a living organism and structural analysis "deadens" it in a certain sense. But such "deadening" is a necessary stage towards understanding it fully. Belinsky stressed that reason in its study of art has "only one way and one means, and that is the separation of the idea and form, the division of elements forming a given truth or a given phenomenon. This procedure of reason is by no means a disgusting anatomical process that destroys a beautiful phenomenon to determine its meaning. Reason destroys a phenomenon in order to revive it for itself in its new beauty and new life provided it finds itself in it. The division by reason kills only such phenomena in which reason finds nothing of itself and proclaims them as empirically existing but not real. This process is called 'criticism'."1. Structural analysis should form a link in a comprehensive study which, at one of its stages, of necessity "deadens" the art work only to bring it back to life. This return is effected through the fourth operation.
Structural analysis is a component part of the modern scientific methodology which considers the inner organization of an artistic text and reveals the meaning of its structure.
The meaning of linguistic and stylistic structure of the artistic text is revealed through semiotic and stylistic analysis.
Semiotic analysis considers an art work as a sign system and proceeds from the assumption that art is a language. The sign system carries a system of meanings (value) and conveys sense (artistic conception).
One of the basic premises of the semiotic approach reads that an art work is meaningful throughout. The creation of the body-sign is of prime importance. Auxiliary and replaceable elements are reduced to a minimum. One cannot draw an absolute line between the body and meaning in artistic culture.
To understand another's utterance is to orient oneself with regard to it, to put it in a proper place in a proper context. Any understanding is dialogical; it opposes the utterance as a remark opposes a remark in dialogue.
Semiotic analysis is a type of modern linguistic analysis of an art work based on structuralist techniques. That technique presupposes division of characters into opposing protagonist and hero (for example, Tsar Peter and Yevgeni in The Bronze Horseman by Pushkin).
Stylistic analysis is based on two main operations: reconstruction of the grammatically normative sentence which lies at the basis of a stylized sentence and revealing the relationship between these two sentences. These relationships contain the stylistic rules whereby "ordinary" sentences are turned into stylized ones. The main stylistic rule is that of substitution, replacement of an element of a text by another, presenting the same information in a new "garb".
The "ordinary normative" language which provides a reference point for stylistic analysis is variously denoted as "correct speech", "stylistically unmarked text", "the schoolroom language", etc.).
All these refer to the neutral basis of language from which the individual style of the artist deviates expressing his social attitudes and personal qualities.
The study of the style of work through its character and the degree of its deviation from "correct" speech is a concrete application of the principle ofhermeneutics: in order that "I" should understand "Another" "a Third" is needed ("the middle term" in Dilthey's terminology). In stylistic analysis these three hermeneutic terms are concretized in the following way: "I" is the critic; "Another" is the stylistically marked text expressive of the individuality of the artist; "a Third" ("the middle term") is the information contained in the stylistically marked text but expressed in stylistically unmarked manner ("schoolroom language").
The following lines from Pushkin may raise a few eyebrows:

I don't like Russian speech
Without a grammar mistake,
It is like rosy cheeks without a smile
.

But the fact is that Pushkin here refers to artistically stylized speech, i.e. speech deviating in some way from the grammatical norm. Style is always an "error" with regard to "normal" ordinary speech.
Evaluating the inner organization of an art work, determining the value of its inner links means above all revealing the wealth of its intonational system, i.e. the intonational analysis of the art work.
The aesthetic experience is expressed in intonation which is an instrument of collective human consciousness. Intonation is a means affixing and transmitting thought, a substantive element of theinformation process, an active vehicle of the experience of relations concentration of emotionally charged thought. Intonation – audial and motor (gesture, mime) – plays an important role in any branch of art.
Intonation lies on the border between aesthetic feeling and artistic thought shaped in images. Intonational analysis compares the intonation system of the art work with the intonation stock of the period. The comparison reveals the degree of intonation freedom and determines the value of the intonation system of the art work.
The criterion of value is the intonational wealth of the artistic text, its emotional tautness, logical and semantic content.
Determining the value of inner relationships within an art work also involves revealing the degree to which it enriches the artistic norms and poetic craftsmanship of the author. Expansion of the artistic norms enriches and develops the emotional and semantic field and conceptual range of art. The latter tends to enhance the value potential of art and stimulate progress in art.
So, the third stage of analysis determines the value of inner relationships within an art work as indicated by the value of the artistic norms reflecting the author's craftsmanship.

Determining the Sense and Value of an Art Work
in the Light of its Social Functioning

In the functional approach the investigator's attention shifts from the art work as an art object to its social aspect. The artistic message and value of the work are revealed through its actual functioning in culture. This research proceeds in two directions: sociological and receptive and aesthetic.
The receptive approach tries to understand the work through the series of concrete historical, group and individual perceptions of it.
This approach has brought the receptive aesthetic studies closer to hermeneutics. Hermeneutics historically appeared as a methodology of the interpretation of the works of art through the actualization of the cultural tradition in them. In the reception theory approach, it is not the artistic text as such, nor the author as a creative personality but the historical and functional destiny of the art work that provides the take-off point for revealing the artistic value and message.
Receptive analysis considers the artistic characteristics of a work against a historical background, as open to different perceptions by different generations of readers at different historical periods. In traditional aesthetics the artistic essence of an art work was identified with the impulses it gives to the perception of the interpreter while the field of perception was confined to the recipient's standpoint. Perception was thought of in terms of points in space and not in terms of space. The artistic significance was therefore identified with the art work and its substantive form.
Traditional aesthetics of Enlightenment concerned itself only with the relationship between the writer and the ideal reader. In such an approach the perception of an art work was a purely psychological problem. The writer and the reader were two individuals isolated in time and space who were to be involved in an act of aesthetic and spiritual communication. It was assumed that communication was possible not with any reader but only with a reader whose spiritual level and education matched that of the writer. The real fate of the books was beyond the purview of aesthetics and they were not perceived as vehicles for dialogue between author and recipient.
The traditional Enlightenment and Romantic conception of the author as the "creator" of a book as an immanent value and of the reader as an ideal recipient obscures the real, concrete-historical relationships involved in the artistic process.
For many years, aesthetics dealt with the history of the creation of art works, with the creative process and the problems of realizing the conception. Now aesthetics is confronted with other challenges: the study of the perception and consumption of an art work by the public and the public's artistic demands and estimates, the study of the functioning of an art work in the social system and the mechanisms of value and artistic assessment of the work by the public.
The reader (listener, spectator) has to be theoretically treated not as a passive object of artistic influence but as a "productive consumer" who has been transferred from the consumption to the creative sphere. The aesthetic experience is part of social cognition and action. An art work is not something frozen,unmobile and dead.
An art work is a complex system of relations between author and addressee which takes place within the context of culture.
Hermeneutics interprets the art work as a phenomenon of culture.
Modern hermeneutics is particularly concerned with the typology of perception (Gauss) and the inner orientation of art works (Iser).
It is important for aesthetics to overcome the empirical isolation of interpretations from one another and to grasp the general laws of interpretation hidden behind the psychological and individual situative attitudes to art. Perception is a historically determinate entity which has historically successive forms of attitudes to the art work. It is important to approach the perception of art in a historically differentiated way and to expand the frontiers of theoretical study of the interaction between man and the products of artistic culture. New conceptions of interpretation of art works go beyond the framework of psychology and consider culturological aspects of the perception of art.
Art critics must take into account both sides in the "text – recipient" relationship: the influence of the text due to its artistic significance and the reader's reception which depends on his individuality and the concrete historical circumstances. One can talk therefore of two levels in the study of an art work, i.e. the inner artistic and the historical.
Aesthetics from the time of antiquity to our own day has mainly addressed itself to the process of the creation of an art work while leaving it to psychology and other areas of knowledge to study perception, which was not considered to be a problem for aesthetics.
Thus aesthetics ignored the dynamics of human subjectivity, i.e. the most essential factor for art and for aesthetic experience.
That gap is now filled in the theory of aesthetics by a department called "aesthetics as the theory of artistic perception (receptive aesthetics)"; the receptive approach can help methodology to gain deeper insight into the meaning and value of an art work.
Sociological studies allow to reveal the picture of the social functioning of an art work, to define the social strata in which it has an impact and to describe the reception preferences and orientations of the public. The strength of the impact on the reader (spectator, listener) and the following of a work commands in different social strata can be measured. Sociological studies and statistics help towards a more general picture of these processes.
Analysis must perceive the change in the social weight of the art work, its sense and meaning, its axiplogical focus and dominant functional feature, for all this is relevant not to the inner organization of the art work but to its social existence.
An art work is a living organism born of a host of spiritual factors.
In the course of analysis the scholar looks at various layers of the art
work and the methodology of analysis changes drastically depending on whether the emphasis is on the wholeness or divisibility of the art work, on the elements or on the interaction between parts and the whole and between parts. These different avenues of research have been differently pursued in different schools of art criticism.
Intuitivism is inclined to emphasize the wholeness of the work.
Formalism, positivism, neopositivism and structuralism gravitate towards the second type. The third approach is to varying degrees favoured by the cultural-historical school, comparativism and sociologism.
The complex, multi-layered nature of the art work and the artistic process are most fully revealed when the cultural field is used as the operational instrument of analysis. The methodology which includes the category of the field as its instrument approaches art as a spiritual-practical process. Taking into account the criss-crossing and superimposition of different cultural fields on one another, the researcher can recreate a wide picture of the interactions of an art work and encompass its real life in all its shifting relationships: with the author, the creative process, the environment, other artistic phenomena, and with society.
There exists a whole range of interacting fields in which the art work realizes itself and through which it must be interpreted.
The semiotic field makes it possible to understand the system of signs and to decipher their meaning. It is formed of the language culture and the natural and conventional languages and habits of their application and understanding.
The socio-historical field creates the tension which holds and reveals the socio-semantic meaning of the art work. That field is formed of political ideas and institutions, the forms of everyday and state life; it makes it possible to understand the social reasons for and the social load of the work.
The field of culture makes it possible to see the art work within the cultural tradition and enables a person versed in that culture to understand and interpret the text.
The field of a concrete branch of art, i.e. the artistic tradition proper, gives insight into all the shades of the meaning of an art work as a fact of art.
The field of public opinion makes it possible to understand the social status of the work, its place in the hierarchy of art values.
This field is formed by art criticism and by the word-of-mouth "publicity" surrounding a work of art.
The field of the author's creative work gives an insight into the artistic conception of the work in the context of the views of the author expressed in the whole of his artistic legacy. That field is formed of the interaction of the given work with the entire body of the author's work.
The ontological approach considers the work in terms of the history of its existence in society. The circumstances of the social realization of an art work are capable of shedding new light on its meaning.
When exposed to new life and art experience the work acquires new qualities. Every new generation reads it with a "fresh, contemporary eye". The fact that there exist different readings of an art work is due to the influence of world view on perception and interpretation and reveals its historical changeability: its artistic value may wax and wane depending on the social and cultural environment in which the work lives. The value focus of the art work may change, its entire axiological structure may change as a result of which it should be analyzed along different lines in a new historical period. Even the meaning of the work is changeable, although within certain limits.
In a new historical period an art work lives a new life, it has different time and internal associations and relates differently to the cultural field. As soon as the value focus and the dominant function of the work shift under the impact of a new historical-cultural field, the whole system of layers has to be viewed from a different angle. As a result the significance of an art work changes. The value of a great work grows both artistically and conceptually.
The social existence of a work takes place through publication, interaction with the audience, public opinion, and its interpretation by critics. These factors determine the social status and ontology of the masterpiece. In turn, the history of the public "reputation" of a work, its treatment by the critics, the public attention and perception of it are far from irrelevant for the reading of a masterpiece, and provide one of the clues to its modern interpretation.

Final Judgement of the Meaning and Value of an Art Work

The fifth operation of analysis – getting down to the essence – is achieved throu'gh an all-round view of the object, the use of the instruments of synthesis, the technology of generalization which realize the original conception and bring into a system the results of the analysis of external and internal relationships of an art work and its functioning. Here method is a definite type of synthesizing procedures and the technology of generalization. As a result of these procedures a generalized theoretical vision of the object is formed which is enriched by the knowledge of details extracted in the process of the second, third and fourth mental operations. There emerges an all-round view of the work, the final judgement about its artistic conception, i.e. concrete general judgement which yields a comprehensive idea of the meaning of the work.
Critical analysis of a work as a whole involves a synthesis of the results yielded by its comprehensive study. The historical approach which marks the whole process of analysis brings all the aspects of the analysis into the focus of a single and comprehensive interpretation. Only a methodology that is at once many-sided and "united" by a single historical view can result in a synthesis of diverse points of view (approaches) on the work, their merger into a single interpretation, a comprehensive analysis.
One aspect of the comprehensive analysis is evaluation of the artistic conception, revealing its richness and originality. The artistic conception brings together the qualities that determine the value status of a work. It contains the value nucleus of the work which draws on all the previous value layers.
The fifth operation of critical analysis reveals the expansion of the area of freedom in the conceptual mastering of life and determines the "increment" of ideas by comparing them with the ideas current at the time the work was created. The value of the conception of the work and its correspondence to concrete-historical and universal human social tasks are thus determined.
The supreme criterion of the concluding stage of value analysis – artistic perfection, a masterpiece of art – is a socially significant conception of an art work that is masterfully expressed on the basis of enriched norms of art, meeting the fundamental needs of society in the shaping of a socialized and independent creative individual.
The five stages of value analysis of the art work (value position; considering the value of the aesthetic relationship between the art work and reality; revealing the value of the inner structure of the artistic text; showing the value of the social functioning of a work and, finally, determining the value of the artistic conception) directly correspond to the five stages of the interpretational analysis (the world view position, semantics of the work's external relationships; semantics of internal relationships of the artistic text; the meaning of the work in the light of its social functioning, the meaning of the art conception).
The synthesis of the results of four stages of value analysis produces the final general assessment of the art work (its value status is determined).
The value of a work is a sum total of all the components, and the general value judgement about it is the result of the generalization of what has been established by all the evaluative analytical operations in the course of the investigation.
The problem of the artistic value of a work of art takes on great aesthetic, practical and philosophical significance in the present dynamic world which is full of social drama and in which the question of the meaning of life itself is very acute.

1 V.G. Belinsky, Complete Works, Vol. 6, p. 270 (in Russian).

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