Literature, Art, Craft


A significant element in the viewer’s experience of a work of visual art is often pleasure in, and admiration for, the skill of the artist – that dimension of the work we often call ‘craft’. In this lecture I will ask to what extent it is useful to discuss the reader’s response to a work of literature in terms of a similar enjoyment of craft. I will draw on the distinction between ‘art’ and ‘craft’ put forward by the philosopher R. G. Collingwood and the theory of ‘techne’ developed by the literary critic Henry Staten, and examine a painting and a poem in order to compare the two genres as examples of craft. In both cases, one question to be asked is: when does craft become something else, something we call ‘art’? And when this happens, is the experience for the reader of literature the same as that for the viewer of visual art?

About the Speaker:

Derek Attridge is Emeritus Professor in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author or editor of thirty books across several fields, including literary theory, South African literature, the history and forms of poetry, and the work of James Joyce. His most recent book is The Experience of Poetry: From Homer’s Listeners to Shakespeare’s Readers (2019), and forthcoming in 2023 is Forms of Modernist Fiction: Reading the Novel from James Joyce to Tom McCarthy. He was the first recipient of the Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Prize, and his book The Singularity of Literature won the European Society for the Study of English Prize for literary studies in 2006. Before moving to York, he taught at Oxford, Southampton, Strathclyde, and Rutgers universities, and he has held Visiting Professorships or Fellowships in the UK, USA, Italy, France, Germany, South Africa, and Egypt. 

Date/Day: 15 February 2023, Wednesday

Time: 4.30pm - 6.00pm

Venue: SHHK Auditorium (Level B1-14)

In-person Registration:

Livestreaming on YouTube: NTU Distinguished Lectures in the Humanities Series - Derek Attridge - YouTube