Art, Literature and Value

  • Lars-Olof Åhlberg


I shall begin by considering some contemporary analyses of the concept of art, since one’s attitude to the generic concept of art is likely to influence one’s view of the nature and function of the concept of literature. The discussion of the generic concept of art is introduced (II.i) followed by an analysis of art as an open concept and its relationship to the subconcepts of art such as literature, music, architecture (II.ii). The next section (II.iii) is devoted to the institutional theory of art, and in particular the notion of appreciation in that theory, followed by a discussion of the problem of identifying art, in contrast to defining art (II.iv). The logical importance of a minimal concept of art as the precondition for theorizing about art and of defining art is frequently overlooked. Part III is devoted to the concept of literature, beginning with a survey of the history of the concept of literature, since the conceptual history of literature is relevant for our endeavour to understand contemporary conceptions and concepts of literature (III.i). Some of the problems involved in defining literature are discussed in the following section (III.ii), followed by an analysis of an institutional approach to literature (III.iii). In the final section (III.iv) questions concerning the evaluation of works of literature are analysed by means of examples drawn from three different literary genres. I argue that the concept of literature is not an evaluative concept in any straightforward sense, but that there is an ineliminable evaluative dimension to the concept, which has been neglected in much recent literary theory.


Eighteenth Century Institutional Theory Literary Work Oxford English Dictionary Open Concept 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Lars-Olof Åhlberg

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