Textual indeterminacy revisited: from
Roman Ingarden onwards
Abstract: I discuss the phenomenological approach to the creative apprehension of a literary artwork along the lines set out, from the 1930s to the 1960s, by the Polish philosopher Roman Ingarden. Responding to a revival of interest in phenomenological proposals concerning language and its products, I focus specifically on the problemof ‘indeterminacy’, an inherent feature of both the linguistic system and the fictional worlds that support many literary texts, as envisaged by Ingarden. His works in the area of cognitive philosophy and aesthetics of literature, known to the readers outside Poland in not too numerous German andEnglish versions, still merit the attention of contemporary scholars since they connect well with several frameworks that have taken up the issue of ‘gap-filling’ and its cognitive import. In brief,
I would like to bring closer to the reader’s attention the issue of ‘places of indeterminacy’ in texts and text worlds and of their ‘concretization’ by the interpreter, according to the Ingarden model (discussed comprehensively by, among others,
Wolfgang Iser). I argue that with some possible modifications, it is still relevant to the study of aesthetic response to both verbal and non-verbal texts from the perspective of phenomenology, cognitive studies and the neuroscience of the arts.
Keywords: Ingarden, phenomenology, indeterminacy, gaps, ‘concretization’
DOI 10.1515/jls-2015-0001 1 Roman Ingarden’s theory of a literary work of art as indeterminate 1.1 Ingarden’s major works on indeterminacy
The year 2015 marks the 45th anniversary of the death of the leading Polish phenomenologist Roman Ingarden (1893–1970), whose contribution to the analysis of the literary work of art as a peculiar object of human cognition proved substantial, not
Elżbieta Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, Jagiellonian University, Institute of English Studies, ul. Prof.
S. Łojasiewicza 4, 30-348 Kraków, Poland, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Literary Semantics 2015; 44(1): 1–21
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Download Date | 6/5/15 6:10 PM only in his own time. In the face of a recent revival of interest in phenomenology, visible also (and not without reason) among cognitively-oriented theorists of language and literature, it is opportune to look again at the main claims advanced by Ingarden as to the inherent schematicity (hence incompleteness) of a literary work, and to see how his programme connects with subsequent studies devoted to the fascinating phenomenon of gaps, lacunae or empty places in the structure of human language and especially its larger units such as texts and discourses.
Ingarden was born in Krakow. He studied mathematics and philosophy, the latter in Lvov under Kazimierz Twardowski and then in Germany, under Edmund
Husserl. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in Freiburg but returned to Poland and lived in Lvov, active as a professor of the Lvovian University until World War II.
His philosophical interests covered a broad spectrum, ranging from aesthetics (including the theory of literature and other arts) and axiology (cf. Ingarden 1983) to ontology and epistemology, all from the phenomenological perspective. To an
English-language readership he is best known as the author of two fundamental works: The Literary Work of Art and The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art, both published in 1973. It should be borne in mind, however, that the former work was originally written in German as Das literarische Kunstwerk as long ago as 1931 (its
Polish translation appeared as late as 1960), while the Polish original of the latter saw the light in 1937, to be later revised by Ingarden, who had it published in
Germany in 1968. The English translation is based on this enlarged German version. During World War II Ingarden was working on what he intended to become a comprehensive Poetics, but unfortunately the book never materialized.
Some essays planned to become its parts were included in the Polish collection of
Ingarden’s articles issued after the war (cf. Ingarden 1947/2000 [Sketches on the
Philosophy of Literature]). The related topics were discussed by Ingarden in the two-volume Studia z estetyki ([Studies in Aesthetics], 1958/1970) that have not been translated into English (but cf. Ingarden 1985). In those studies Ingarden contrasted the structure of verbal and visual artworks (his interests, apart from literature and painting, focused also on music, theatre, film and architecture; cf. Ingarden 1986, Ingarden 1989). After the war, he moved to Krakow and became a professor at the Jagiellonian University (cf. also Translator’s Introduction to
Ingarden 1937/1973; Blackburn 1994: 170–171; and a very good discussion of the main issues in Ingarden’s literary theory in Markiewicz 1996). 1.2 Spots/places of indeterminacy
In The Literary Work of Art, Ingarden puts forward his two basic claims about a literary creation conceived as an intentional object, a phenomenon of the 2 Elżbieta Chrzanowska-Kluczewska
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Download Date | 6/5/15 6:10 PM subjective consciousness that as a result of phenomenological eidetic reduction becomes transcendental, inter-subjective and de-psychologized, offered as an artefact by the author for the intentional scrutiny of the readers.
Firstly, every literary artwork is a stratified formation, in which four layers occur simultaneously and build the vertical, synchronic dimension1 of the work: 1) the stratum of sound formations, that is word sounds and the phonetic formations of a higher order (prosody, metre, rhythm, tempo, etc.), 2) the stratum of meaning units of various order of complexity (ranging from words, through phrases and sentences to sentence complexes, viz. to texts), 3) the stratum of represented objects (objectivities) that constitute the building blocks of the represented world (the world portrayed, i.e., the text world in our current terminology, “a self-sufficient world of things, people, occurrences, and events, a world with its own dynamics and emotional atmosphere”, including “the psychological situation of the portrayed characters”, Ingarden 1937/1973: 43, 90) and 4) the stratum of schematized aspects, i.e. of the modes of appearance of the objectivities to the author and the readers.2 The last term may sound unclear but it basically refers to what nowadays would be very roughly called the imagery created by the text. Some critical assessments of this Ingardenian conception of the structure of a piece of literature (predominantly fictional) have called into question the validity of the dissection of the fictional world into two layers, namely of objectivities and their phenomenal images. The issue is undoubtedly of interest to a general theory of text worlds but we will not pursue it here.