Author and Audience: A Perspective on Stendhal's Concept of Literature

As a young man Stendhal held views on literature that were neo-classical in orientation. From these orthodox views he derived the belief that the proper subject of literature is a person's internal life. He realized, however, that such a literature makes demands on both the author and the reader that are different from those envisaged by neo-classical theorists. Since he considered that all great art is based on an understanding of the interior life that is rooted in personal, emotional experience, he stressed the necessity of this experience as a prerequisite to both artistic creation and appreciation. In his view, artistic communication occurs only when a reader or spectator approaches the work of art with a sensitivity similar to that of the artist. Capacity for emotivity and sensitivity is more important for the reader or spectator than specialized knowledge of the art involved; it is through this capacity, aided by the imagination, that a member of the audience becomes a co-creator. For Stendhal this concept of art implied that the medium must remain free from superfluous artifice that is potentially distracting from the goal of art that is a complete communion between the artist and men and women of similar sensitivity. (EJT)

Talbot, Emile J
Volume 1974 Spring-Summer; 2(3-4): 111-22.