The concept of meaning in light of the Prague School’s poetics and aesthetics
A B S T R A C T
The word “meaning” appears often in the work of Jan Mukařovský. He does not, however, define this concept explicitly; thus we must deduce its content retrospectively, based on individual instances of its use. We then encounter a surprising ambiguity manifested even within a single text in literature studies. That is, when Mukařovský describes the structure of a literary work, he refers to its three basic components: sound, meaning and theme. “Meaning” is thus associated explicitly with merely one particular aspect of the text. But Mukařovský then goes on to say that thematic elements (motifs) operate as bearers of meaning in literary texts, and even that meaning should be understood as the “common denominator” of all components. Meaning in a strictly linguistic sense is thus rivaled by meaning of artistic form – i.e. the entire aesthetic effect in which the equivalent of the “meaning-aesthetic object” can be found. This “meaning-aesthetic object”, discussed in Mukařovský’s works on aesthetics, is at the same time characteristically presented as the fluctuating component of the work; with respect to the recipient as a historical variable, the Prague School preconceives the issue of the fluctuating identity of a work and several methodological principles of reception aesthetics.
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