The Work of Art
Immanence and Transcendence
Translated by G. M. Goshgarian
What art is—its very nature—is the subject of this book by one of the most distinguished continental theorists writing today. Informed by the aesthetics of Nelson Goodman and referring to a wide range of cultures, contexts, and media, The Work of Art seeks to discover, explain, and define how art exists and how it works. To this end, Gérard Genette explores the distinction between a work of art's immanence—its physical presence—and transcendence—the experience it induces. That experience may go far beyond the object itself.
Genette situates art within the broad realm of human practices, extending from the fine arts of music, painting, sculpture, and literature to humbler but no less fertile fields such as haute couture and the culinary arts. His discussion touches on a rich array of examples and is bolstered by an extensive knowledge of the technology involved in producing and disseminating a work of art, regardless of whether that dissemination is by performance, reproduction, printing, or recording. Moving beyond examples, Genette proposes schemata for thinking about the different manifestations of a work of art. He also addresses the question of the artwork's duration and mutability.