Meaning in art


A. Heroic mode


B. Pastoral mode


C. Lyric mode


D. Satiric mode




When meaning comes into play in a work of art, one can speak of various modes. "Meaning" is concepts and ideas, and, in general, the type of contents of the work: e.g. a work that deals with heroic behavior can have references to the sense of duty, courage, and other concepts that are normally associated with heroic natures.

When we speak of the mode of an artwork, meaning is certainly of greatest importance. The meaningful contents interrelates with the formal principles in the artwork, and influences and shapes form in certain ways to create various modes. As a result, form is adapted to a particular mode (e.g., the composition of a heroic work will be different from that of a lyric or pastoral).

At the same time, it is important to understand that the opposite process also takes place. Aesthetic demands pertaining to the form of the work of art often change and transform the conceptual contents (meaning, mode) of the work for the purpose of composition and aesthetic effect: e.g., the demands of form can make heroic features seem weak or comic.

Speaking of literature, it can be said that at the level of meaning or modes other arts resemble literature. It is in literature that the modes and their conceptual contents are most apparent: in other arts one can speak of modes only insofar as their conceptual contents becomes clear (painting), or in a completely metaphorical way (instrumental music).