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tionalists or narrativists. First, it is certainly logically possible for someone to argue
that though identifying the artist™s intention is relevant for establishing art status, it
may not be relevant for interpretation. Monroe Beardsley™s aesthetic theory of art
explicitly endorsed such a view, and, if I am not mistaken, Davies himself does as
well, since Davies, like Levinson, tends to believe that it is a necessary condition
for art status that “the art maker intends her product to be viewed in one or
another of the ways that art has been correctly viewed in the past.”28
It is only a historical fact about Levinson that he is intentionalist in both the
interpretation and the definition of art. One could be intentionalist in the matter
of identifying art and nonintentionalist in one™s approach to interpretation, as
Davies is.Thus, what we might call Davies™ conventionalism with respect to inter-
pretation has no implications for intentionalism in the matter of identification.
Second, I wonder whether Davies is correct in claiming that there is a point to
art “ the maximization of our aesthetic interests “ such that conventional inter-
pretations always trump intentionalist interpretations. There are currently inter-
pretations of B-movies, such as Ed Wood™s Plan 9 from Outer Space, that interpret
its sloppy editing and narrative lapses as if they were avantgarde gestures of sub-
version, aimed at deconstructing the techniques of the classically edited, Holly-
wood cinema. In fact, the film looks the way it does because it is a slapdash
exploitation quickie, made in a hurry and on a shoestring budget.
Given the protocols of contemporary film criticism, the avant-garde-primitive
modernism-account of the film is available, and mobilizing it in such a way that
each gaff in the film™s style is a transgressive gesture certainly makes a more excit-
ing item out of the movie. But this interpretation does not square with anything
that we would be willing to say about the film on the basis of Wood™s intentions.
And, I submit everyone “ save the most committed lovers of the world™s worst
films “ will agree that, though the primitive-modernist interpretation is available
within the conventions of film criticism, it should not be endorsed because it is
implausible to believe that Wood could have intended Plan 9 from Outer Space as
an exercise in modernist transgression.
There were, of course, filmmakers, like Luis Bu±uel and other surrealists,
who could have made a transgressive film in the nineteen fifties of the sort that
some have said that Wood attempted. But given what we know of Wood, it is
outlandish to attribute such intentions to him.Thus, in this case, I maintain that
on balance we prefer the intentionalist interpretation over an available conven-
tional one which would make our encounter with Plan 9 more exciting.29
Therefore, it seems dubious that conventional interpretations always trump
intentional ones. Nor does it seem that there is some point of art “ such as the
maximization of aesthetic experience “ that always overwhelms intentionalist
considerations. That is, we do not have to foreswear intentionalism when it
comes to interpretation. Consequently, even if there was some way in which
emphasis on intention in the matter of identifying art was tied logically to our
interpretive practices, it is not clear that our interpretive practices are as deci-
sively conventional as Davies maintains.
116 ART, HISTORY, NARRATIVE
AND


2. One might worry that identifying narratives are too powerful “ that they
can be deployed in such a way as to defend the art status of objects and perfor-
mances that are not art. For example, it is well known that van Gogh cut off his
ear lobe after an argument with Gauguin. Suppose that their conversation con-
cerned artistic matters. Further suppose that van Gogh mutilated himself as an
expression of frustration with that debate. Indeed, let us go so far as to imagine
that van Gogh mutilated himself in order to symbolize the plight of his artistic
convictions in the face of Gauguin™s criticisms. If we imagine all this to be fact,
then couldn™t an identifying narrative of the sort discussed previously be mounted
to support the claim that van Gogh™s mutilated ear is art. But even if what we have
supposed were factual, I predict most of us would still hesitate to count the ear as
art, despite an accompanying narrative.
This hesitation seems to me correct. And yet the reason that most of us have
for withholding art status from van Gogh™s ear can be turned to the advantage of
the narrativist.Van Gogh™s ear is not precluded art status because it is the product
of self-mutilation. In the second half of the twentieth century in that subgenre of
performance Art often called Body Art, there are examples of artworks “ of which
the most notorious was Rudolf Schwarkolger™s fatal, self-castration “ which, how-
ever gruesome, self-destructive, disgusting, and immoral have a discernible, if lam-
entable, place on the contemporary landscape of the arts.
What Schwarkolger had at his disposal “ which van Gogh lacked “ was a
recognized framework in which self-mutilation could be presented as art.Van
Gogh™s act occurred outside any artworld system of presentation “ outside any
of the artforms, media, and genres known to him and his public “ whereas
Schwarkolger™s self-mutilation was a nearly predictable move in a recently
entrenched genre.
Now if this analysis is correct, it indicates that in order to establish the art sta-
tus of a contested work, one needs not only to tell an identifying narrative that
connects the work in question with acknowledged art practices, but, as well, one
needs to establish that the thinking and making that the identifying narrative
reconstructs be localized to activities that occur within recognizable artworld sys-
tems of presentation “ that is, artforms, media, and genres that are available to the
artist and the artworld public under discussion.That is, identifying narratives must
be constrained to track only processes of thinking and making conducted inside
the framework of artworld systems of presentation or recognizable expansions
thereof. Moreover, where this constraint is honored, identifying narratives will not
commit the error of overinclusiveness.
In most cases, we will have little difficulty determining whether a work is pro-
duced in a recognizable artworld system of presentation. No one disagrees about
whether poetry, the opera, the novel, and so on are artworld presentational sys-
tems. However, there may be cases when disputes arise about the status of a pre-
sentational practice. So the question that faces us finally is how we are to establish
that disputed presentational practices are artworld systems of presentation. Here I
think that once again narrative is our most reliable method.
HISTORICAL NARRATIVES PHILOSOPHY ART 117
AND THE OF


New artworld systems of presentation “ like photography, cinema, performance
art, and so on “ appear frequently. But such systems do not spring from nowhere.
They are evolved by their practitioners through self-conscious processes of thinking
and making from earlier artistic systems and practices. Establishing that a candidate
practice is an artworld system of presentation becomes a matter of reconstructing that
process of thinking and making in such a way that a narrative of its development out
of existing, acknowledged practices can be perspicuously charted.
For example, photographers, like Edward Steichen, strove to have their
medium accepted as an art by making photos that achieved the same ends as state-
of-the-art painting. Of his The Frost-Covered Pool, he wrote: “The picture, if pic-
ture you can call it, consisted of a mass of light gray ground, with four or five
vertical streaks of gray upon it ¦ Among artists in oil and water colors the
impressionist leaves out of his picture much, if not all, of the finer detail, because
he assumes ¦ that the public can supply this detail much better than he can por-
tray it ¦ What is true of the oil or water color is equally true of the photo-
graph.”30 By telling the story of the way in which photographers like Steichen
adapted their medium to acquit existing aims of art, we explain how a new art-
world system of presentation is introduced.
Of course, new artworld systems of presentation may arise in many different
ways.Art photography emerges from the aesthetics of painting, in part, by mimic-
king prevailing artistic styles and their purposes. But new artworld systems of pre-
sentation can follow alternative pathways of evolution.What is called Conceptual
Art, for instance, emerged by repudiating the art object as a commodity fetish “ by
effectively leaving the gallery-market system with nothing to sell. This antipathy
to the commodification of art, needless to say, was already a well-known stance by
the late nineteenth century. Thus, the new arena of artmaking, Conceptual Art,
though it produced works of an unprecedented variety, can be connected to pre-
vious artworld endeavors as a means to an already well-entrenched conception of
art™s purpose.31
In many cases, there is a great deal of consensus about which practices consti-
tute recognizable artworld systems. Where questions arise about a candidate, like
Conceptual Art, a narrative of its emergence from acknowledged artworld prac-
tices can establish its status as an artworld system of presentation.The kinds of nar-
ratives that are applied to such conclusions are various. In some cases, new systems
of presentation may be plotted as emerging from established systems by processes
of repetition, amplification and/or repudiation, though sometimes we will have to
map even more complex routes.32
Identifying narratives of contested artworks, then, are constrained to track-
ing processes of thinking and making within the framework of established art-
world systems of presentation. Explaining “ by way of a narrative “ that a
contested candidate is the intelligible outcome of processes of thinking and
making in response to acknowledged artistic practices in the context of a recog-
nizable artworld system of presentation is sufficient for establishing the art status
of the work in question.33
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3. Lastly, it may be argued that the narrative approach to identifying art is not
really philosophical. It reduces the philosophy of art into the history of art “ a charge
that some have leveled at Hegel.34 However, it should be recalled that philosophical
research is traditionally concerned with epistemological questions.And the theory of
identifying narration presented in this essay is an attempt to analyze and motivate
what I claim is a reliable method for establishing that a candidate is art. It may be true
that “ in contrast to definitionalists “ metaphysics is not my concern. But epistemol-
ogy “ or a species of naturalized epistemology “ is, and that is certainly philosophical.
Moreover, if the diagnosis that I offered of the philosophy of art in the
opening stages of this essay is correct, what has animated the philosophy of art
as we know it is the problem of the avant-garde “ the problem of coming to
terms with stylistic upheaval in the practice of art.This problem is that of how
to comprehend and incorporate radical innovation.The solution that I recom-
mend is identifying narration.




ON NARRATIVE CONNECTION
THE

Narrative is a topic of increasing interest across the humanities and the social sci-
ences today. Even philosophers like Richard Rorty and Alastair MacIntyre invoke
it, often against something they call theory. However, although the notion of nar-
rative frequently figures in many discussions in the university, it is not often
defined.The purpose of this essay is to advance a characterization of our ordinary
concept of narrative in terms of one of its crucial ingredients, and to explore some
of the ramifications of that definition in light of how we might begin, in part, to
understand narrative comprehension.
Of course, narratives come in many different sizes and shapes.What is called a
narrative history, for example, may mix different expositional forms, including not
only narration, but argument and explanation. Likewise, a novel may contain ele-
ments of commentary, description, and decoration in addition to strictly narrative
elements. It is not the purpose of this paper to define such large-scale units of dis-
course. My aim is much more modest. I would like to attempt to define some-
thing more discrete “ what I call “the narrative connection.”
I suspect that when we call more large-scale discourses, such as histories or
novels, narratives, we do so because they possess a large number of narrative con-
nections or because the narrative connections they contain have special salience or a
combination of both. I will not speculate on what proportion of narrative connec-
tions a discourse must possess or on what degree of salience said connections must

From: New Perspectives on Narrative, ed. by Will van Peer and Seymour Chatman (Albany: SUNY
Press, 2000).
ON THE NARRATIVE CONNECTION 119

exhibit in order for a large-scale discourse to be called a narrative. At present, I am
only concerned to characterize the nature of the narrative connection.
If this is all I intend to do, does this justify my previous claim about character-
izing narrative? I think that it does. For fundamental to our identification of a
given novel or history as a narrative is its possession of narrative connections. His-
tories and novels may contain more than narrative connections. But it is their pos-
session of narrative connections that leads us to call them narratives.Thus, even if
we are not prepared to say what proportion and what degree of salience of narra-
tive connections provide grounds for calling a history or a novel a narrative, the
possession of narrative connections is an essential feature of anything that we
would want to call a narrative.Therefore, we need a characterization of the narra-
tive connection before we attempt to explore the grounds on which we call large-
scale mixed discourses narratives.

I . D E F I N I N G T H E N A R R AT I V E C O N N E C T I O N

The first step in defining the narrative connection is to consider its proper
domain. I hope that it is uncontroversial to say that the domain of narrative dis-
course is at least comprised of events and states of affairs. I will assume this much.
However, the statement “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe” is not a nar-
rative, although it describes a state of affairs.Why not? Because narratives contain
more than one event and/or state of affairs. Narratives represent a series of events
and/or states of affairs. Thus, the first necessary condition for what constitutes a
narrative representation is that it refer to at least two, though possibly many more,
events and/or states of affairs.“There was an old lady who lived in a shoe” is not a
narrative, but “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe that was very small, so
she went looking for a boot” looks more like a narrative, since this involves two
things, a state of affairs “ living in a shoe “ and an event “ “searching for a boot.”
A narrative connection represents a series of events and/or states of affairs.
Mention of a series here implies that narratives contain the citation of at least two,
but possibly more, events and/or states of affairs. But is any series of events and/or
states of affairs a narrative? Here, following the lead of linguists, let us test our
intuitions against an example. Is the following a narrative?
“The Tartar hordes swept over Russia; Socrates swallowed hemlock; No«l
Carroll got his first computer; Jackie Chan made his most successful movie; and
dinosaurs became extinct.” Is this a narrative? I suspect that almost everyone will
agree that this is not a narrative.Why not? One reason is that this particular dis-
course, though it contains more than enough events and states of affairs to qualify
as a narrative, fails to be about a unified subject. It seems as though it is about four
disconnected subjects.Thus, I hypothesize that to count as a narrative connection,
a discourse representing a series of events must be about a unified subject (though,
I admit, more will have to be said about what makes a subject unified).
Of course, saying even this much allows that a narrative may be about more
than one unified subject. Large-scale narratives, such as a history of France, will
120 ART, HISTORY, NARRATIVE
AND


often be about more than one subject; and narratives of all sizes may develop par-
allel stories concerning different subjects; moreover, in addition, narratives may
contain nonnarrative material. But to qualify as a narrative connection, the dis-
course must manifest at least one unified subject. Perhaps so much is implied by
calling the phenomenon under discussion the “narrative connection.” That is, the
events and/or states of affairs must be connected; they cannot simply be a list of dis-
connected events and/or states of affairs.
Now test another example against your intuitions:“The President talked to his
adviser; the President ate a piece of cheese; the President jogged; the President
waved to reporters.”This discourse string takes note of apparently more than one
event and it appears to have a unified subject “ namely, the President™s activities.
But let me suggest that it is not a narrative. Why? Because it lacks a discernible
temporal order. One cannot divine the order in which the preceding events
occurred. Perhaps, the President jogged in the morning, then ate the cheese, and
on the next day he talked to his adviser and, at the same time, waved to the
reporters. From a logical point of view, assuming the President did do all these
things, the discourse string as a whole would be true whether the President
jogged first and then waved to the reporters or vice versa. But narrative structure
makes demands over and above logical structure. Narrative requires that the events
and/or states of affairs represented be perspicuously time-ordered. A narrative is
not simply a series of events arranged helter-skelter; a narrative is at least a sequence
of events, where “sequence” implies temporal ordering.
Perhaps my example is a little confusing. Some may feel that the previous
recounting of the President™s activities are, in fact, time-ordered. But I submit that
if you think that, then it is because you are assuming that the order of the sen-
tences represents the order of the events in question. But why assume that? If you
look closely at the discourse string in terms of the information it carries, I suspect
that you will quickly realize that all the activities notated could occur at the same
time.The discourse string is underdetermined with respect to the time-ordering

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