A double content theory of artistic representation

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 63 (3):249–260 (2005)
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The representational content or subject matter of a picture is normally distinguished from various non-representational components of meaning involved in artworks, such as expressive, stylistic or intentional factors. However, I show how such non subject matter components may themselves be analyzed in content terms, if two different categories of representation are recognized--aspect indication for stylistic etc. factors, and normal representation for subject matter content. On the account given, the relevant kinds of content are hierarchically structured, with relatively unconceptualized lower level aspectual contents encoding or symbolizing higher level conceptualized representational subject matter. Such an account is strongly supported by the latest findings of cognitive science regarding levels of conceptualization. The paper also demonstrates how the account given is compatible with the actual pictorial competence of normal viewers of visual artworks.

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John Dilworth
Western Michigan University


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