Letter to Irena Sławińska written 4/24/1950

R. Ingarden
Cracow, Biskupia 14.

Cracow, 24/4/1950

The Honourable
Dr Irena Sławińska, Warsaw



            Dear Doctor.

                                  Due to an enormous number of various commitments, and also because I wanted to first read at least a part of the books you so graciously bestowed on me, I have not yet thanked you for your letter or for sending the Welleck[O1]  & Warren book. I now cordially thank you for both.

                                  I am glad that you agree with my comments on your review of the Welleck & Warren book. I have only read about thirty or forty pages or places in which WELLECK SPEAKS OF MY BOOK Das literarische Kunstwek[O2] . (It seems that Welleck is not familiar with my Polish publications, although as a Czech he might be.)

                                  On the basis of what I have read so far, I have formed above all the impression that The Theory of Literature is dependent to a much greater degree on Das literarische Kunstwerk and on Das Form-Inhalt-Problem im lilterarischen[O3]  Kunstwerk than the authors themselves confess expressis verbis. In a number of places they make use of my arguments, and even individual terms and examples ‒ e.g. in the matter of the distinction of works of literary art from the rest of ‘literature’.

            Moreover, I did not get the impression that your paper, in terms of what you write on the topic of the so-called ‘corrections to Ingarden’ (a note in pencil in your copy of the book) was consistent with the text of the book being reviewed. I cannot e.g. read in W. & W. that ‒ as you write ‒ ‘they propose the reduction of the number of layers (a layer of schematicised appearances and presented objects constitutes one whole). They also question the layer of “metaphysical values”’. (NB: neither I nor Welleck & Warren write about metaphysical ‘values’, but only about ‘qualities’.)

            Well, first of all: Wellek & Warren mistakenly talk about this as if I might accept ‘layers’ of metaphysical qualities. I have never done so, as can be easily confirmed. But neither I nor (I believe) they question the presence of these qualities in a work of literary art; on the contrary, they emphasise that accounting for them enables me ‘to reintroduce questions of the “philosophical meaning” of works of art without the risk of the usual intellectualist errors’. They mention only that these qualities need not exist in every work of art, but this is wholly consistent not only with my convictions, but moreover with the text of Das literarische Kunstwerk. As the cited locations testify, they also understand that, with regard to metaphysical qualities in a work of literary art, I am not a ‘formalist’ ‒ but this is a minor point.

            Finally, they do not say – as one would conclude from your paper ‒ that appearances and presented objects constitute a single whole. They write only: a) ‘Ingarden adds two other strata which may not have to be distinguished as separable’. That they cannot be distinguished as separable from the remaining layers or from the work in general does not at all contradict the fact that they can be distinguished within the work as layers. The text quoted by W. is not identical to the idea that ‒ as you write ‒ ‘the layer of appearances forms a single whole with the presented world’. The quoted text does not sound at all like an accusation directed at me, especially given that ‒ as can be easily confirmed ‒ as concerns metaphysical qualities, I have repeatedly stated their close association with the situation presented in the work in which they appear. Nor are appearances separated from the object which manifests itself through them, even if it differs from them in some respect.

            b) the second of W. & W.’s sentences to come into play reads as follows: ‘Possibly the two strata can be included in the “world”, in the realm of represented object’ – followed by the sentence: ‘But they also suggest very real problems in the analysis of literature’.

            The quoted sentence is clearly stated by the authors as a possibility regarding which they make no decision, but at the same time as one which, no matter how it is settled, confirms once more not only the presence of both ‘strata’ in the work, but moreover (that presence) suggests ‘very real problems in the analysis of the[O4]  literature’. What is more, the sentence goes on to cite the dissertations of H. James and Lubbock – unfortunately as yet unknown to me personally ‒ in which these issues are supposed to be precisely elaborated ‒ all of which evidently testifies that my theoretical position is correct and that the authors themselves acknowledge this.

            Thus I don’t know if it’s possible to agree with you that these constitute what you call ‘corrections to Ingarden’.

            And one more thing: I don’t know on what basis you write that in The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art ‘they are no longer there’ ‒ does this mean ‘layers (?) metaphysical values (?)’ There are no such layers there, obviously, because they were not present in Das literarische Kunstwerk. But in The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art and in all my subsequent papers on the theme of the work of literary art and works of other kinds of art, I maintained that metaphysical qualities were present in them ‒ not, of course, in all of them ‒ about which one is easily convinced, having once read with care the books and papers mentioned here (see also Sketches on the Philosophy of Literature, On the Structure of Paintings, On Architectural Works, and The Work of Music and the Problem of Its Identity).

            The authors W. & W. essentially level an accusation at me, saying that ‘we cannot comprehend and analyse any work of art without reference to values’. I think, however, that this is a misunderstanding arising from an inaccurate understanding of my position in Das literarische Kunstwerk as well as from unfamiliarity with The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art. To the extent it is possible to communicate with the authors by mail, I’ll discuss this matter with them. It is one thing to carry out a general structural analysis in this style, as Das literarische Kunstwerk does, and another thing entirely to analyse ‘Any work’ – a certain (specified) work in individuo. Here, in any case, the question arises of the distinction between a work of literary art and its concretisations. It is one thing to conduct an academic analysis and another to evaluate as a critic.


Again, I thank you very much, and attach expressions of genuine respect and cordial greetings



[O1]Błąd Ingardena, ma być Wellek (passim)
[O2]Błąd Ingardena, ma być Kunstwerk [?]
[O3]Błąd Ingardena, ma być literarischen [?]
[O4]słowo the nie powinna być, nie ma go w pierwszym cytacie