There’s no doubt that the broad issue which has dominated is that of the kind(s) of meaning possessed by artworks, and the bulk of this chapter will be duly devoted to that. But it is not the only one. Possession is not the sole relation that an artwork can bear to meaning. Questions may be asked as well about meanings as, so to speak, the subject-matter of art – as what art may reveal or communicate about. This will be the topic for the first section. The two topics are not unrelated, for those who think that art is uniquely equipped to reveal dimensions of meaning are apt to see, in that revelation, an important dimension of art’s own significance. The meaning of certain artworks may show up, as it were, through their showing up the meanings of whatever they are “about”. The significance that Proust’s great novel has for many of its readers surely owes to its author’s extraordinarily keen anatomy of a world of meanings – those of gestures, flowerarrangements, the ribbons in a girl’s hair, a slice of cake, or whatever: a world that, though a literary creation, is one from whose
exploration we easily return, our sensitivity to meanings enhanced, to our own world.