As it was indicated
before, the methodological part includes Umberto Eco conception of the open
work presented in his study Open Work. This source and the concepts included in it
will help to analyse and interpret Virginia Woolf and Somerset Maugham’s novels
as the intertext of their autobiographies. This part of the Master thesis was
written due to the need to introduce the reader with the principal theoretical
material and ideas presented by Umberto Eco in his work.
In the book Open Work written by Umberto Eco the
concepts of openness, completeness and a work in movement are discussed and
analysed. At the very beginning of his work, Eco compares music to the open
work and uses Stockhausen as an example. Stockhausen’s modern piece of music
can have a variety of forms which is chosen by any performer. It is possible
that music is given as an example due to the different interpretations by every
listener and also every performer. Eco stands out that the performer chooses
how long to hold the note, where to sing higher, where to hold the pause and
etc. He states that in music performance “the instrumentalist’s freedom is a
function of the “narrative” structure of the piece, which allows him to “mount”
the sequence of musical units in the order he chooses”1. There
is a possibility of unlimited interpretations of that kind of art.
He points out that most
of the works of art “offer themselves not as finite works which prescribe
specific repetition along given structural coordinates but as ‘open’ works,
which are brought to their conclusion by the performer at the same time as he
experiences them on an aesthetic plane”2. So the open work can be completed
by the performer, the reader, the listener or anyone else who is taking into
the account some of the work of art. According to Eco, to avoid the confusion
in terminology it is necessary to specify that we can find the definitions of
the concepts enumerated before.
The one of the first
thing it is necessary to define is the term work
of art. Eco claims that “we see it as the end product of an author’s effort
to arrange a sequence of communicative effects in such a way that each
individual addressee can refashion the original composition devised by the
author”3. So it is important to understand
when we are taking into account this kind of viewpoint that the author creates
something and hopes that his piece of work will be interpreted and received in
a same way as he devised it. Nonetheless, every person interprets and sees art
in the way they want, in the individual one, which can be different from the
author’s point of view or on contraire can be the same. Everything depends on
the particular person. So Eco brings out this idea that “open” works, in so far
as they are in movement, are characterized by the invitation to make the work
together with the author”4. Any
work of art can be depicted as a work in movement because the work is finished
and doesn’t move anymore when the person who sees, reads and comprehends it,
interprets it on one’s own way. Then the piece of art is completed. The general
understanding that the work of art is made together with the author only
includes consumers to be a part of something. This whole idea just helps to
attract people to galleries, book clubs, and museums.
understanding leads to the concept of an openness. It is possible to state that
every piece of art, not depending on the kind, is an open work. Interpretations
happen all the time because people are used to interpret things in their own
ways. In his books Open work Eco
defines the concept of an open work as an artwork in movement or a process
without concrete ending or meaning. Eco looks through the works by Berio and
Stockhausen and claims that in “primitive terms we can say that they are quite
literally ‘unfinished’: the author seems to hand them on to the performer more
or less like the components of a construction kit”5. This is a paradoxical
interpretation of the phenomena which shows how we can understand the concept
from the easiest perspective. It is possible to say that the author of some
work of art leaves a piece for the audience to fit in. In this way the person
feels the one who finishes the piece of any art, one can feel special and
connects to that work more. Open work to Eco is an artwork which is rather in a
process of making than is already made. He states that there are two things
that are needed for an open work: multiplicity of meaning and involvement of
the audience. Without them an open work does not exist for Eco’s understanding.
Eco does not confine
himself and also sees two types of openness: works on the level of
contemplative openness and works on the level of structural openness. And Eco
takes into consideration two authors whom he uses as the examples. He cites
James Joyce and Mallarme. In the introduction of Eco’s Open work David Robey also thinks similarly:
“This is where the analogy with works like Mallarrne’s
Livre obtains: just as Mallarme’s
reader would have arranged the pages of the book in a number of different
sequences, so the reader of the Wake
perceives a number of different patterns of meaning in Joyce’s language. In the
Lure it is the material form that is
open, whereas in the Wake it is the
semantic content; but in each case, according to Eco, the reader is in
substantially the same position, because in each case he or she moves freely
amid a multiplicity of different interpretations”6.
Although Eco does not differentiates those
types too much and mentions them only several times he considers them
important. So does the author if introduction. The reader faces infinitive ways
of interpretation of the works of art, however, the reader oneself experiences
differences between the semantically open form and materially open form of the
Eco is also
reconsidering the ideas by Stephane Mallarme who claims that: “The important thing is to prevent a single sense from imposing itself at
the very outset of the receptive process: blank space surrounding a word,
typographical adjustments, and spatial composition in the page setting of the
poetic text – all contribute to create a halo of indefiniteness and to make the
text pregnant with infinite suggestive possibilities”7.This kind of
understanding seeks that the work of art would be interpreted as the individual
wants in the way he perceives it. There cannot be rules determined to how the
art should be understood. It is left for the imagination and perception of the
audience. For example, there is a poem by Lithuanian author Kornelijus Platelis
which is called “Pavogtos karv?s”8. It is
written as a defensive speech from the perspectives of the lawyer who is
defending someone named Barabas. For some people it may seems that it’s just a
simple and nicely wrote poem, but to those who know that Barabas is a biblical
character it is much more and the literary work has a different meaning. The
understanding lies in the experience. One more example would be the fables of
Aesop. The child can read those stories, nonetheless, one will understand only
the connection between human and animal while almost any adult sees the
allegorical meaning given in those simple stories. The more one reads, the more
it is possible to understand and to find.
The term of openness
can be understood as the theory of full understanding. The work is completed by
one performer, but it is not closed because there are hundreds of other
performers who will give it different closures, selecting from Stockhousen’s
options provided by his work. Eco states that “every performance explains the
compositions but does not exhaust it. Every performance makes the work actuality,
but is itself only complementary to all possible other performances of the
interpretation can tire out a work of art. Even though there are a lot of
understandings, they are different and also cohere together. Nonetheless, there
are some works that are looked through too many times trying to find a
different meaning. These are the works like Romeo
and Juliet which is exalted.
Eco tries to explain
the idea of Merleau-Ponty whom he is quoting: “How can anything ever present
itself truly to us since its synthesis is never completed? How could I gain
experience of the world, as I would of an individual actuating his own
existence, since none of the views or perceptions I have of it can exhaust it
and the horizons remain forever open?”10. It means that none work of art could be
finished till the end. If it would be, there should be notes how the author
understood the text, the painting, the performance, there would not appear a
gap which must be fulfilled. There would not be necessity for someone to finish
one’s work with own interpretations. It would seem like a work of art finished
with the comment of the authors in some parts that leads to the one version of
understanding. It could also lead do destruction of imagination and
self-presentation. The art could become only one person’s piece of work with no
intention of sharing.
As the example of the
open work Eco takes Franz Kafka’s works as the perfection of the openness and
claims that “it is easy to think of Kafka’s work as ‘open’: trial, castle,
waiting, passing sentence, sickness, metamorphosis, and torture – none of these
narrative situations is to be understood in the immediate literal sense”11. Kafka’s literary works are really
“open” due to the possibility to interpret in so many different ways, that his
creations lead a lot of people to discussions that have nor ending because
there cannot be the one conclusion. Usually there are several opinions left
that cannot be led to a compromise. That also is a negative side of the Kafka’s
works. If there are too many interpretations how can it be understood? Eco also
sees that and states that his “work remains inexhaustible insofar as it is
“open”, because in it an ordered wold based on universally acknowledged laws is
being replaced by a world based on ambiguity”12 According to Eco he agrees and also disagrees
that Kafka’s works are the good examples of openness in literary creations.
The symbolism is also
important to Eco’s theories. He takes into consideration the semiotics and it
is not a coincidence. There are a lot of coded information when it considers
various forms of art. If there won’t be symbols, there won’t be as much
interpretations as it could be. Yuri Lotman in his book says that “texts become
codes and codes messages”13. In the
case of text it can be changed to any piece of art that has a code which
transmits to message given to the audience. Eco stated that “the “openness”
that we meet in the decadent strain of Symbolism reflects a cultural striving
to unfold new vistas”14. It
leads to the idea that symbols evoke the interpretation of art. They hide some
information underneath them, that can be read sometimes in different ways,
sometimes only in a one way. And also, the meaning of symbols change though the
time so the meaning of one symbol can differ in Romantism epoch and in Middle
Eco finds one more
classification of an open work and calls it the work in movement. Works in
movement may consists of unplanned or physically incomplete structural units
which need to be finished with a dialectic between the author’s intentions and
the performers choices among those options he is given. According to Eco “we
can say that the ‘work in movement’ is the possibility of numerous different
personal interventions, but it is not an amorphous invitation to indiscriminate
participation”15. These works in movement collide
with the possibility to different personal inventions that are coherent to the
author’s work. So Eco claims that the authors suggests for the person who is
reading, performing or interpreting the work to look at it as the completed16.
All in all, it can be
said that according to Umberto Eco “‘open’ works, in so far as they are in
movement, are characterized by the invitation to make the work together with
the author and that (2) on a wider level (as a subgenus in the species ‘work in
movement’) there exist works which, though organically completed, are ‘open’ to
a continuous generation of internal relations”17. He considers an audience, reader,
performer’s contribution to the meaning of the art very significant. Without
the interpreter there would not be any understanding and meaning of the
creative work. The also would not be the term of openness. These Eco ideas had
shown the conceptuality of openness, closeness and work in movement. These
terms will help in the practical part of the Master thesis.
1 Umberto Eco, The Open
Work, translated by Anna Cancogni, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989,
Ibid, p. 3.
3 Ibid, p. 3.
4 Ibid, p. 21.
5 Ibid, p. 4.
7 Ibid, p. 8.
8 E. Banyt?, N.
Butnori?t?, V. Cibarausk?, D. Mitait?, Poezijos
pavasaris. Almanachas 2017, Vilnius: Vaga, 2017, p.
Eco, The Open Work, translated by
Anna Cancogni, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, p. 15.
10 Ibid, p. 17.
Ibid, p. 9.
12 Ibid, p. 9.
13 Yuri Lotman, Universe of the Mind– A Semiotic Theory of
Culture, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2001, p. 33.
Eco, The Open Work, translated by
Anna Cancogni, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, p. 14.
Ibid, p. 19.
See. Umberto Eco, The Open Work,
translated by Anna Cancogni, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, p. 19.
Umberto Eco, op. cit., p. 21.