Center for Three-Dimensional Literature - Logo

COLOSI HOME
BIO
INSTALLATION
OBJECTS
--NARRATIVE

--ANALYTIC

DRAWING
PERFORMANCE & VIDEO
WRITING BY
WRITING ABOUT

 

HOME | ABOUT | ARTIST INDEX | THR3ORY | NEWS | LINKS | CONTACT | SEARCH
Center for Three-Dimensional Literature - Title logo




a chapter excerpt from

THE ROLE OF THE WRITER: DEVIATIONS FROM THE WORKS OF UMBERTO ECO

David Colosi

 

Circumnavigational Time and the Work of Art

 

 

1.0 Intro

 

The distinction between static and time-based arts divides the disciplines of painting, sculpture, installation, and architecture from theater, dance, film, and music.  The temporal attribution is based on the presence of a set length of time required for a work to play itself once through and for a receiver/consumer to experience it as a whole.  The static attribution is based on the work's objecthood, its everpresence, and on the absence of temporal restrictions.  Literature, with its spatial and temporal requirements of pages to be read, and its everpresence as a book accessible at the will of the reader, falls somewhere in between.  In this essay I will argue against this static vs. time-based dichotomy and suggest that all works of art require circumnavigational time – "the minimum time it takes to entirely experience a work."[Eco, 58]1 

By comparing other theories of temporality, I will first show that all works of art impose two types of time regulators2 on their receivers, external and internal.  The flaw with the time/stasis dichotomy (as well as with some studies of time and narrative) is that it takes only the external time regulators into consideration.  Then I will connect three separate but related concepts that Umberto Eco introduces in his Norton Lectures, published as Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, which is the source I wish to engage in dialog with and from which I will deviate.  The first is Eco's differentiation between empirical and model authors and readers which will help to clarify who I refer to as the experiential agents of external and internal time regulators.  The second is Eco's differentiation between first level readers and second level readers which will help to parse out the difference between experiencing and entirely experiencing a work of art.  And the third is circumnavigational time which Eco briefly introduces as a cross-disciplinary concept.  In the end, I will push this concept further by comparing specific works of art.

PARSING TIME / TIME FOR PARSING

 

Philosophical and literary theories of temporality often distinguish between external time (clock time, objective time) and internal time (inner time consciousness, subjective time):  in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway the chiming of the clock snaps the stream of the characters' consciousness; in Husserl’s inner-time consciousness the systems, measurements, and calculations of external time which we organize our lives around remain outside of the brackets; and for Heidegger external measurements of time after Dasein (after death) are considered "inauthentic temporality".3  External time deals primarily with our use of time while internal time deals with our understanding and experience of it. 

I will call external time regulators those structures that control the amount of time it takes to experience a work of art.  These deal primarily with the relationship of time to size and scale:  the minute-count of films and the performing arts; the page or line-count of books or poems; the square and cubic footage in architecture; the size of a sculpture or painting – triptychs vs. single canvases, singular forms vs. installations.  In this external sense, one feels safe in saying that a two-hour film takes longer to watch than a two minute film; a four hundred page novel takes longer to read than a forty-page one; a room installation more time to view than a smaller-than-human-scale singular form; and a multi-panel painting more time to view than a single canvas.  As I will show, this assumption is not always safe.

I will call internal time regulators those structures that control the amount of time it takes to entirely experience a work of art.  These I will put under the general categories of details and solicited reexamination.  Details take the form of, in film and literature, long (visual or linguistic) descriptive sections vs. action sequences, exegesis vs. dialogue, and flashbacks, flashforwards, digressions, and "shifting gears" between the story time and the time of narrating[42, 59]; in architecture, sculpture, and painting, the abundance of minute details vs. expanses of open or empty space; and in music, rapid and repetitive sequences vs. extended monotone notes.  Details are considered in both their narrative and formal manifestations.  Secondly, works of art can solicit reexamination in several ways.  They can call the receiver to reenter the work with techniques like narrative or formal loops or cycles, the giving of answers before questions, and other ruptures in direction and flow.  They can also call the receiver to reencounter the work by confronting him/her with more than they are able to understand in its presence.  In the case of reentering, the receiver must examine the work again in the present (in its presence).  In the case of reencountering, the receiver must examine the work – not symmetrically in its absence but – in its pastness and futurity:  by recollecting the previous experience and in expectation of the subsequent experience.  Certain works ask the receiver to know more prior to encountering or reencountering them.  Knowing more is relative to the individual receiver, and it can be accomplished on three levels:  the first is literacy – the receiver must establish the appropriate fluency in the artistic language; the second is experience with the general discipline at hand; and the third is experience with the particular work at hand – whether it is the first or subsequent experience of it.  These can be developed through study, research, and exposure to secondary sources.  All of these internal time regulators, which are built into works – details and the various branches of solicited reexamination – control the pace of reception while remaining relative to the individual's perception and consciousness.  Together with external time regulators, they contribute to entirely experiencing a work of art.

Many theories of time and/in narrative (literary in particular) distinguish between, as Gerard Genette does, story, narrative, and narrating; or as Lubomir Doležel does between story time, time of the story telling act, and time of the text representation; or between showing and telling; the telling and the told, and bracket out or postpone concepts of reader time and writer time.  These are deemed non-contributory to "narrative time structuring" or theories of fictional worlds so they are left out.4  While I agree that branches of temporal issues must be taken in smaller bites, reader time and writer time are often taken only in their external, or physical, aspects and the internal aspects are lost at their expense.  Questions of the "time of perception" and the "time of enunciating" – or in my case, the time of reception/consumption and conception/production – are contributing factors to temporal structures of narrative and cannot be bracketed out wholesale.5

So what are "writer time" and "reader time"?6  A detail of Hanne Darboven's work can demonstrate the physical aspect of writer time.  Schreibzeit, the word printed on the schoolbook paper she chooses to "write" on, represents both "time to write" and the "time of writing".  Her cursive lines on the page follow the objective path of writing and express only the physical act and structure of writing.  Writing is treated and processed concretely.  In her words, she "inscribes but describes nothing."[Burgbacher-Krupka, 9]  The physical aspect of reader time can be seen in a detail of Ann Hamilton's work.  In her installation Tropos, Hamilton sat a live "reader" at a table.  The "reader" was provided a stack of books and a soldering iron and was instructed to burn the words immediately after reading them (if eyes could burn, the iron wouldn't have been necessary).  This "reader", like Darboven as "writer", treats and processes reading concretely.  Their actions are equivalent to those of a monolingual English speaker copying Chinese script as if s/he were drawing.  These external aspects of "reading" and "writing" have little to do with comprehension.7  When one reads or writes (without "…"), in addition to the mark-making of letters or tracing of lines of words with one's eyes, one is also working to comprehend semantically.

But what should we call the one who reads?  Who is the one who circumnavigates or experiences entirely a work of art?  Eco parses these characters clearly for us.

"The empirical reader is you, me, anyone, when we read a text.  Empirical readers can read in many ways, and there is no law that tells them how to read, because they often use the text as a container for their own passions, which may come from outside the text or which the text may arouse by chance."[8]

By contrast, a model reader is the type who is

"…inclined to smile and to follow a story which does not involve them personally …a sort of ideal type whom the text not only foresees as a collaborator but also tries to create."[9]  "The model reader…is a set of textual instructions, displayed by the text's linear manifestation precisely as a set of sentences and other signals."[15] 

Likewise, the empirical author is you, me, anyone, who writes a text.  Eco says, "I'll tell you at once that I couldn't care less about the empirical author of a narrative text (or, indeed, of any text)."[11]  The model author, he says, on the other hand, is an anonymous voice which "We know nothing else about…, or rather we know only what this voice says between the first and last chapters of the story."[14]  The model author is an it that is to be recognized as 'style' and

"…a voice that speaks to us affectionately (or imperiously, or slyly), that wants us beside it.  This voice is manifested as a narrative strategy, as a set of instructions which is given to us step by step and which we have to follow when we decide to act as the model reader."[15]  "…the model author and the model reader are entities that become clear to each other only in the process of reading, so that each one creates the other."[24]

Just as I recognize the existence of physical aspects of writer and reader time but care less about them, so too does Eco recognize but care less about empirical writers and readers.  My concern is with model readers and the comprehensive aspects of writer and reader time.  While the external time regulators pose challenges to empirical receivers, the internal ones challenge model receivers.  But, Eco adds, every text is addressed to two levels of model readers.  One – by my terminology – experiences a work of art, while the other strives to experience it entirely.

"There are two ways of walking through a wood.  The first is to try one or several routes (so as to get out…as fast as possible,…or to reach the house of grandmother …) the second is to walk so as to discover what the wood is like and find out why some paths are accessible and others are not.  Similarly, there are two ways of going through a narrative text.  Any such text is addressed…to a model reader of the first level, who wants to know…how the story ends….But every text is also addressed to a model reader of the second level, who wonders what sort of reader that story would like him or her to become and who wants to discover precisely how the model author goes about serving as a guide for the reader.  In order to know how a story ends, it is usually enough to read it once.  In contrast, to identify the model author the text has to be read many times, and certain stories endlessly."[27]

By considering the example of Samuel Beckett's Molloy, I will be better able to show how these concepts coincide with other theories of temporality and contribute to circumnavigational time.   Conveniently, the narrative of Molloy also takes place in the woods and explores two paths.  Beckett is the empirical author, and we are the empirical readers.  Nothing else interests us about them, so we turn to the model author and the model reader.  We can count four protagonists in Molloy:  Molloy-writer, Molloy-character (of Molloy-writer), Moran-writer, and Moran-character (of Moran-writer).  The model reader doesn't identify any of these as the model author.  Instead, the model reader merges the voice of Molloy-writer and Moran-writer as the model author.  In doing so, the model reader does not say that either of these characters writes both accounts, or that they are the same character, instead s/he recognizes that both pieces of writing come from an authorial voice that the text generates.  The two writers are characters of the model author while they are also narrators of their own writing acts and of the stories they tell of characters who go by their names. 

The novel lends itself in many ways to the Heideggerian temporal concept of Dasein.  If, as Eco says, "the model author and the model reader are entities that become clear to each other only in the process of reading" then every time the book is read by a model reader, not only are the four characters brought to life, so too is the model author.  The model reader, as Dasein, is "thrown" into Molloy, and s/he and the model author then Be-towards-death.8  Being-towards-death is being-towards-the-last-page:  the futural drive is toward the finitude at the end of reading. 

Molloy-writer also reveals himself as Being-towards-death when he complains, "What I'd like now is to speak of the things that are left, say my good-byes, finish dying.  They don't want that.  Yes, there is more than one, apparently.  But it's always the same one that comes."[Beckett, 7]  While the model reader and the model author both achieve death, Molloy-writer and Moran-writer can never finish dying as long as there are more readers.  These "more than one" that Molloy-writer accuses of not allowing him to finish dying are the readers who keep coming back to edit (interpret) his pages.  The rereaders are "the same ones that come."  Since the model reader and the model author are products generated by the text, they are born at the beginning and die at the end, every time.  The characters, on the other hand – we must assume for the narrative to operate – have lives before and after the reader encounters them.  (Moran has a son who was the result of a procreative act, etc.)  Although we can take inferential walks to identify the past and future of a character, we cannot know anything more than the text tells us about them.9  Therefore, since the text never tells us that Molloy and Moran die (not taking into consideration Malone Dies and The Unnamable), we can only say that they continue living, and therefore, just as their characters continue to suffer, so too do the writer-characters suffer by their inability to die.

Molloy, activated by this incessant stream of first level and second level model readers, creates several Sisyphean characters.  Moran-writer, who also cannot finish dying, is somewhat more hopeful (even if hellishly so) than Molloy-writer when he writes,

"And it would not surprise me if I deviated, in the pages that follow, from the true and exact succession of events.  But I do not think even Sisyphus is required to scratch himself, or to groan, or to rejoice, as the fashion is now, always at the same appointed places.  And it may even be they are not too particular about the route he takes provided it gets him to his destination safely and on time….This would keep hope alive, would it not, hellish hope.  Whereas to see yourself doing the same thing endlessly over and over again fills you with satisfaction." [Beckett, 182]

Eco, with his love of forty years, Nerval's Sylvie10, is certainly guilty of not allowing a character to finish dying.  While Beckett's suffering characters are caught in an existential wood, satisfied only by a hellish hope, Eco's hope is more positive.  "This experience of rereading a text over the course of forty years has shown me how silly those people are who say that dissecting a text and engaging in meticulous close reading is the death of its magic."[12]  The difference is that Eco is concerned with his own pleasure and not concerned with the fate of the characters.  Molloy-writer is, on the other hand, concerned with his fate, and regrets the pleasure of his readers – the very thing that prevents him from finishing dying. 

Repeated readings, as attempts to identify the model author, contribute to the entirety of experiencing a work of art.  Moving backwards chronologically in the history of philosophy, Husserl’s theory of inner time consciousness lends understanding to how they do so.  On a first reading, the model reader is innocent – virginal – such that s/he proceeds through a series of Now points, which involve a tripartite experience of retention, primal impression, and protention.  The model reader's recollection is a result of what has been read as one moves forward along the linear path of the text.  The model reader's expectations only reach an interpretation based on how recollections of similar past experiences might pertain to the expectation at hand.  The first-time model reader still has a future – the further pages of the book remain unknown:  a reader's future is the book's past since the text always knows more.

Husserl's phenomenological experience of time is no different for the second level model reader except for the fact that, having gone through the text one time, the model reader reentering the text encounters the same expectations but now has recollections of not only the same expectations but also of how those expectations come to pass.  The text still knows more than the model reader, but the model reader, the next time around, knows more than his/her previous innocent self.  In a novel like Molloy, the empirical reader trying to become the model reader for the first time, cannot, for instance, anticipate the more-than-serendipity of the stiffening leg that Molloy-character and Moran-character share.  Only subsequent readings can fill the Now moment with more informed retentions and protentions, and recollections and expectations, which contribute a fuller development of the model reader.

CIRCUMNAVIGATIONAL TIME AND ART AT WORK

 

Although my example of Molloy and Eco's of Sylvie ground the discussion in literature, all works of art generate model receivers that subsequent experiences can further develop to varying degrees.  This is one of the key elements in determining circumnavigational time. With comparisons to other art forms, Eco takes the first step into making this concept broader when he answers the literary question, "How can a text impose a reading pace on a reader?"[58]. 

His answer begins by considering pace as a relationship between discourse time, story time, and "reading time"11.  In music these three times, he says, occur in the same duration.  Pacing is built into a piece of music such that the listener cannot listen to it faster or slower (while still maintaining the work’s intention – playing a 33 rpm LP at 45 rpm, or a CD in FF mode uses it beyond the work’s intention).  The same is true for a film such as Warhol's Empire12 or a live TV broadcast[58-9] and, we could add, certain dance performances.  External time regulators set the pace and reception time for these works. 

Although we can watch Empire again, or listen to music over and again, and enjoy it more each time, doing so doesn't necessarily inform us about how "the model author goes about serving as a guide for the model reader."  This relationship is generated rather quickly.  In reading Sylvie for forty years, Eco is rewarded by learning new things about the structure of the text by reading it in different ways.  Even though internal time regulators set the pace such that once inside the text you "…can not read in haste"[43], something more is revealed about the way the internal time regulators work.  In listening to a Burt Bacharach song for forty years we are rewarded with pleasure from hearing it the same way every time.  This is not true of all music.  Certain works, for example Philip Glass's Low Symphony, with its hypotextual basis in David Bowie's Low, has a longer circumnavigational time if one is interested in learning more about the progression of the sequences and the variation from the original.

Non-narrative would be an inaccurate term to call music and Empire since the act of telling always signifies the presence of a story.  In these cases, where the story is identical to the telling act, the external time regulators do the work of narration.  In works of film, theater, dance, and music more traditionally considered narrative, where the story time, discourse time, and "reception time" do not coincide, the story time can display a shorter duration (several seconds as in parts of Tristram Shandy), or a longer duration (several centuries as in 2001:  A Space Odyssey), than the discourse time.  In film, the time of the telling and the time of "receiving" always coincide, but in literature, "reader time" is established by a three-fold pace made by combining the external time regulators, the internal time regulators, and the reader's experience level.  "It is difficult in literature to quantify reading time, but it could be argued that in reading the last chapter of Ulysses you need at least as much time as Molly took to think through her stream of consciousness."[59]  This observation must not be confused with writer time, since, although it took Molly this duration to think it, and it might take us the same duration to "write" it, it likely took Joyce several years to conceive/produce it.

If reception time is difficult to quantify in literature, it is even more so in painting, sculpture, and architecture.  But Eco assigns circumnavigational time to what he calls "space-based" forms of art as well.

"Both sculpture and architecture require – and impose through the complexity of their structure – a minimum time to be entirely experienced.  One could take a year to circumnavigate the cathedral at Chartres, without ever realizing how many sculptural and architectural details there are to be discovered.  The Beinecke Library at Yale, with its four identical sides and its symmetrical windows, requires less time to circumnavigate than does Chartres cathedral.  Rich architectural decoration represents an imposition of the architectural form on viewers, since the richer the detail, the more time it takes to enjoy it."[59]

In this citation, Eco demonstrates how the external regulators of size/scale and the internal regulators of details can affect reception time.  The same conclusions could be drawn by a comparison between Ilya Kabakov's The Life of Flies – with its many rooms, various objects of all sizes, musical elements, and numerous texts – and a minimalist form by Tony Smith.  In both of these comparisons, discourse time, story time, and reception time do not correspond.  Discourse time is set by size/scale; story time – both the telling of the external narrative and the telling of the formal composition – is set through details; and, as in literature, reception time is set to the pace of the internal and external regulators but also relative to the experience level of the receiver. 

Although we can enter the cathedral at Chartres or The Life of Flies and say we have experienced it, we cannot say we have fully experienced it even one time through until we have examined all of its details and passed through its expanse.  If the receiver skips a room, s/he will not have satisfied the requirements of experiencing, much less entirely experiencing.  In this case, to entirely experience it could, in fact, take several years of return visits with research time in between.  But could we not say the same for the Beinecke Library or the Tony Smith form?

Earlier, in introducing external time regulators, I said it seemed safe to say that a two-hour movie would take more time to watch than a two-minute movie and a four-hundred-page novel, longer than a forty-page one.  Here Eco suggests it takes more time to experience the cathedral at Chartres than the Beinecke Library, and I, The Life of Flies than a Tony Smith form.  But does it take more time to circumnavigate Stephen King's thousand-page-plus It than the near forty pages of Sylvie?  How about the seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time and Sylvie?  In Eco's forty years with Sylvie he has yet to entirely experience the novel, and the relationship between the model reader and model author grows every time.  Genette's long-term relationship with In Search of Lost Time is comparable.  But how can we compare the durations of two infinite lengths of time?  This would be the equivalent to comparing the duration of the infinity of all even positive whole numbers with that of the infinity of all whole numbers.

Another addition to internal time regulators as well as a contribution to our understanding of this quantitative temporal problem comes up in Eco's consideration of painting.

"Certain pictorial works of art require multiple viewings.  Take, for example, a painting by Jackson Pollock:  here the canvas is, at first glance, open to a quick inspection (the viewer sees only informal matter), but upon subsequent inspection the work must be interpreted as the fixed trace of the process of its own formation, and – as happens in a wood or in a labyrinth – it is difficult to tell which path is the privileged one, where to start, which way to choose so as to penetrate the still image that results from the act of dripping the paint."[59]

Although Eco, in this citation, introduces the other main category of internal time regulators – Solicited Reexamination – his example seems less poignant than it is a convenient parallel metaphor for his literary woods.  Even though one could take an inferential walk to try to find the first stroke in a Pollock painting and follow it like a maze to its end, the painting doesn't necessarily ask to be ordered in this way.  While Pollock's paintings can be said to display continuous loops, they cannot be said to have paths, as do the loops in MC Escher's drawings of staircases.  Pollock's "brushstrokes" are not vectoral while Escher's paths lead the viewer in a direction even if only back to themselves.  Pollock's "brush strokes" do not lead, they, simply, are themselves.13

These kinds of formal loops or cycles can also be seen in literature.  They are the type of internal time regulator that contributes to entirely experiencing a work.  In Finnegans Wake, the Moran section of Molloy, and Shade's poem in Vladimir Nabakov's Pale Fire, as well as in films like Chris Marker's La Jetée, and Christopher Nolan’s Memento, the last line or scene, physically connects or points the receiver back to the first line or scene.14  This structural marker solicits the reader to reenter the work from the beginning never allowing the text to finish dying.  The model reader too is never allowed to finish experiencing.

Another technique of solicited reexamination as an internal time regulator is the providing of answers before the giving of the questions.  One literary example is from William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.  The model reader knows almost the whole narrative of the novel through the first section presented from Benjy's perception, but s/he does not know what s/he knows until s/he is shown that s/he already knew it.  As one example, the first-time model reader experiences Benjy's attack on a girl on page 34 which leads to his disturbed reaction to the absence of his sexual organs on page 47, but this reader cannot know to see this as an attack, what is absent, or understand Benjy's disturbed reaction, nor can s/he confirm that Benjy has been castrated, until page 164-5 when his brother Jason calls him “The Great American Gelding”.15  Only rereading can provide this knowledge even though the reader has been given the narrative clues already.  To entirely experience the novel requires multiple readings because narrative "facts" are delivered by this cyclic technique.

Although Pollock was not the best example, paintings also have external and internal time regulators and can solicit reexamination in a variety of ways.  Differences in size and scale can be compared in Andy Warhol's room-determined multi-paneled Shadow series vs. one of Ellsworth Kelly's monochromes based on a shadow.  One could make comparisons, like Eco’s, that Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights – which is not only a triptych, but also includes pictorial representations on its exterior surfaces – would take more time to circumnavigate than Rembrandt's portrait of The Syndics.  But, in the same way that we saw the forty pages of Sylvie last forty years, we have to ask ourselves what kind of details we are considering to calculate circumnavigational time.  The Bosch painting certainly has more narrative details to be examined, but the Rembrandt has many painterly or formal details to scrutinize.  The same conclusion could, in fact be drawn between the cathedral at Chartres and the Beinecke library.  While the Chartres cathedral has many narrative details as well as many formal details, the Beinecke library also has formal and architectural details that require examination.  An argument could also be made in this architectural comparison or in a painting comparison between the Bosch painting and a Mark Rothko painting, or in the literary example of Raymond Roussel's detail-packed Impressions of Africa compared to Beckett's Waiting for Godot, that the examination of minutia doesn't necessarily create a longer circumnavigational time.  Some works of art function as contemplative voids and require a long circumnavigational time by their abundance of details of absence. The work of James Lee Byars would be a good example.

In these types of works, we can see another way in which solicited reexamination occurs.  Similar to the way in which The Sound and the Fury provided answers before it gave the questions, certain paintings can do something similar.  We could try to compare the circumnavigational time between various black rectangles by Kazimir Malevich, Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Ryman, and Ellsworth Kelly.  Arthur Danto does something comparable when he literarily "curates" a show of square red paintings, identical in every visual way, that originate in the different genres of historical painting, psychological portraiture, landscape, geometrical abstraction, religious art, still life, and "the mere thing".16  Can we say that each painting requires the same duration of circumnavigational time?  How do these works set a reception pace on their receivers?

Monochrome paintings can also solicit reexamination.  As opposed to considering paintings, sculpture, and architecture as "space-based" or static, it is more accurate, from the perspective of reception theory, to see them in an "always on" temporal condition.  By contrast, in music, film, theater, and literature, we have to "push play" to activate the temporal regulators in the work.  In The Sound and the Fury, in order to find the answers we were not aware we possess, we have to reenter the framework as second level model readers.  We must face the work again in the present (in its presence) to make discoveries.  My earlier discussion of Husserl's time consciousness shows how this functions.  In contrast, we have to reencounter paintings, sculpture, or architecture.  Even though we physically reenter a building, we don't activate it or "push play".  Its time structure is in process when we arrive. 

Also as in The Sound and the Fury, one of the internal time regulators which solicits reexamination in a black rectangle painting is the display of answers before the questions.  But in the case of these monochrome paintings, standing in the present (in their presence) without the literary triggers of their titles, offers no clues to the questions or to an understanding of the answer.  They solicit our reexamination of them at a later time.  They ask us to seek the questions, not so much in their absence, but instead in their pastness and futurity.  This entails reading secondary information; studying the works in schools, books, and journals; engaging in discussions about the works; or by other means of circumnavigating their content while not in the present (their presence).  Any research of a work of art not in its presence includes, if one has experienced the work one time, a look to the past experience in relation to the new information one has acquired.  Research done prior to the first experience functions in the same way.  Both levels of model receivers also anticipate and expect an(other) encounter with the work in the future.  When one reencounters the work in the present (in its presence), the recollections and retentions, and protentions and expectations, are all the more sophisticated.

ENTERTAINED BY KNOWING

 

One of the differences between the music of Burt Bacharach and the Low Symphony; between books like It and Sylvie; films like Back to the Future and La Jetée; and the drawings of MC Escher and Malevich’s Black Square; is that the former entertain us by delivering the same experience every time.  Some extreme listeners don't like to hear live renditions of their favorite songs because they differ too much from the studio versions they have grown to love.  Any deviation threatens to ruin the experience and the memory.  In the latter, we are entertained by deviation.  As Eco makes clear, he enjoys being subjected to the same pacing in Sylvie again and again.  Even so, each time he reenters the text he comes to know something more when he comes out.  The magic never dies.  Works of entertainment consistently deliver the familiar – that which we know and want – while works of art deliver that which we don't know and don't want (we don't know to want it).  Reexperiencing a work of entertainment is to reach into the past (for memories, nostalgia).  Reexperiencing a work of art is to reach into the future since we seek to know more.  Sometimes, too, we are entertained by Knowing.17

Although comparing the duration required to experience or entirely experience specific works of art is helpful to conceptualizing the temporality implicit in all works of art, proving that certain works or disciplines take longer to circumnavigate than others seems not only complex but beside the point.  These comparisons only help to reveal, more openly, the work of art in establishing a receiving pace on their receivers by way of external and internal time regulators.

 

NOTES


1 All page numbers in [brackets], unless otherwise stated, are from Umberto Eco’s Six Walks in the Fictional Woods.

2 The term "regulator" is borrowed from Doležel [Doležel , 212].

3 Heidegger, [374, 379].

4 Genette:  "…[Todorov] added considerations about the "time of [narrative] enunciating" and the time of narrative "perception" (which he assimilated to the time of the writing and the reading) that seem to me to exceed the limits of his own definition.  I, for my part, will hold those considerations in reserve for another order of problems…"[Genette, Narrative Discourse, 29]
     Doležel:  "We will eliminate those forms of physical time which…do not participate significantly in the process of narrative time structuring.  This concerns, primarily authorial time – time of the creative performance which leads to the 'production' of the literary manuscript – and reader's time – the time of the reader's perceiving the literary text.  There are no direct correlatives of these two forms of physical time in the structures of narrative time."[Doležel, 209]
     Paul Ricoeur:  "However, this investigation will not for the moment cross the threshold leading from the first problematic to the second, inasmuch as the experience of time at issue here is a fictive experience that has an imaginary world for its horizon, one that remains the world of the text.  Only the confrontation between the world of the text and the life-world of the reader will make the problematic of narrative configuration tip over into that of the refiguration of time by narrative."[Ricoeur, T&N, V2, 100]

5 I will mimic a conjecture by Pierre de Fermat:  I have a wonderful proof of a parallel theory of the time of conception/production, but this essay is too small to contain it.

6 For the moment, I too will stick to the field of literary reception, keeping in mind that most of these ideas can be applied to reception as reading, viewing, listening, etc.

7 My examples should not suggest that I believe semantics and comprehension are absent features in Darboven's and Hamilton's work.  Instead, I recognize that they operate in ways other than linguistic and literary.

8 "I entered into this life with my parents already born and Homer's Odyssey already written, and then I tried to work out the story going backward, as I did with Sylvie, until I more or less understood what had happened in the world before I arrived."[65]  Eco is "thrown", too.

9 "…everything that the text doesn't name or describe explicitly as different from what exists in the real world must be understood as corresponding to the laws and conditions in the real world."[83]  This is why we must assume that the son was not the result of a magic spell or an immaculate birth.

10 Genette describes Narrative Discourse as an "insomniac turning over and over" between poetics and criticism [Genette, 23] since it doubles as a work in narrative theory and as a critical analysis of Proust's In Search of Lost Time.  The same description applies to Eco's Six Walks with Sylvie at its center.

11 The quotation marks are Eco's, but they coincide with mine to refer to the physical aspect of reading discussed earlier.

12 Eight hours of footage from a still camera on the 44th floor of the Time Life Building aimed at the Empire State Building from late dusk to early morning, 1964.

13 "There was a reviewer... who wrote that my pictures didn't have any beginning or any end. He didn't mean it as a compliment, but it was. It was a fine compliment." Jackson Pollock, New Yorker interview, August 5, 1950 (see [Unframed Space].

14 Raymond Roussel based his whole writing method on this technique.  See How I Wrote Certain of My Books.

15 Page numbers refer to Faulkner, William.  The Sound and the Fury, Norton Critical Edition.  New York, NY:  WW. Norton and Co., 1994.

16 This “curation” takes place in chapter 1 of Arthur Danto’s Transfiguration of the Commonplace.

17 Although I only introduce this difference here between works of entertainment and works of art, I explore it more deeply in Towards a Three-Dimensional Literature, 1.2.2.

WORKS CITED
  • Beckett, Samuel.  Molloy:  A Novel.  New York, NY:  Grove Press, 1955.
  • Burgbacher-Krupka, Ingrid.  Hanne Darboven, Konstruiert Literarisch Musicalisch/Constructed Literary Musical, The Sculpting of Time.  Ostifildern, Stuttgart: Reihe Cantz, 1994.
  • Danto, Arthur.  The Transfiguration of the Commonplace.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981
  • Dolezel, Lubomir.  “A Scheme of Narrative Time.”  Semiotics of Art, (ed. Ladislav Matejka, Krystyna Pomorska, and Irwin R. Titunik, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989), pgs. 209-17.
  • Eco, Umberto.  Six Walks in the Fictional Woods.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1994.
  • Faulkner, William.  The Sound and the Fury, Norton Critical Edition.  New York, NY:  WW. Norton and Co., 1994
  • Genette, Gerard.  Narrative Discourse., trans. Jane E. Lewin.  Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press, 1980.
  • Heidegger, Martin.  Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson.  San Francisco, CA:  Harper San Francisco, 1962.
  • Husserl, Edmund.  On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893-1917), trans. John Barnett Brough.  Dordrecht, Boston,  London:  Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.
  • Ricoeur, Paul.  Time and Narrative, Vol. II, trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer.  Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 1984-5.
  • "Unframed Space," interview with Berton Roueché, The New Yorker (1950-08-05), in The Grove Book of Art Writing: Brilliant Words on Art from Pliny the Elder to Damien Hirst, ed. Martin Gayford and Karen Wright [Grove Press, 2000], p. 546: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Jackson_Pollock

WORKS CONSULTED
  • Berne, Terry.  "In the Age of the Monochrome."  Art in America (Jan. 2005):  Brant Publications, Inc. & Gale Group 2005:  http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1248/is_1_93/ai_n8967506
  • Calvino, Italo.  Six Memos for the Next Millenium.  NY:  Vintage Books, 1993.
  • Danto, Arthur.  "Paint it Black."  The Nation, Vol. 277, Iss. 5 (Aug. 18-25, 2003.), 48.
  • Genette, Gerard.  Narrative Discourse Revisited, trans. Jane E. Lewin.  Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press, 1988.
  • Graw, Isabelle.  “Marking Time: Time and Writing in the Work of Hanne Darboven.” Artscribe International (Jan.-Feb.  1990), 68-71.
  • Kaak, Joachim and Corinna Thierolf.  Hanne Darboven/John Cage: A Dialogue of Artworks. Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2000.
  • Nerval, Gerard de.  "Sylvie," Gerard de  Nerval:  Selected Writings, trans. Geoffrey Wagner, (Ann Arbor, MI:  University of Michigan Press, 1970), 49-85.
  • Ricoeur, Paul.  Time and Narrative, Vol. I & III, trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer. Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 1984-5.
  • Ronen, Ruth.  “Fictional Time,” Possible Worlds in Literary Theory, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 197-230.

 

Back to Top