Vanishing point: looking for Hamlet

G. Holderness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
223 Downloads (Pure)


‘If the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre’, asked F.W. Bateson, ‘where is Hamlet?’ (74). The distinction is a common one in aesthetics, between the autographic and the allographic work (McLaverty 87). A painting (or sculpture) is unique, singular, atemporal, created directly by the artist, and can be forged as well as copied. A work of literature (or music) is plural, temporal, consists physically of things not made by the artist, is performed by others, and cannot be forged, only imitated, approximated, copied. ‘If the Mona Lisa is burnt, we say the work is lost, no matter how many copies remain … but an author's manuscripts may come (that is, be rediscovered) and go without any necessary effect on the existence of the work of art’ (McLaverty 85). When it comes to works of literature, ‘We have no originals’, as Jonathan Goldberg said, ‘only copies’ (213).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-173
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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