Art for art’s sake: a fallacy. Literature, as art, can neither come into being nor exist in any relevant sense without an audience. As an object, rather than a conscious subject, art cannot observe itself. Unobserved, the work of art would exist only theoretically. It would occupy a meaningless ether of unconsciousness, which, to a world of consciously perceptive human subjects, amounts to nothing more than nonsense.
The work of art cannot generate itself; it cannot exist, even theoretically, without the deliberate agency of an artist bringing it into being. The artist must observe his work in the process of creation, and thus, the act of artistic creation itself requires that the work possess a conscious audience.
At the very minimum, a work of art can be understood as an act of expression by its author. Yet a vision of “art for the sake of the artist’s self-expression” proves insufficient if the work aspires for an audience more broad than its creator and those intimately interested in the workings of his mind.
Time represents our most precious possession. Why, then, should we expend our time reading a work of literature, or considering a piece of art? Literature that merits an audience must somehow compensate its readers in exchange for their time. But what should the experience of reading provide? For what “sake” should literature exist?
To ask the overwhelming question: “what is it?”
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