If you read around literary theory, you'll frequently come across the concept of autonomy in art, the idea that an artwork is a thing unto itself, independent from the artist. As far as I understand it, it appears to be founded in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and a number of book interpretations actually play with the idea of autonomy, such as Lolita in which the mortality of the characters can be read as a conceptual mortality of the text itself.

The trouble is, however, I don't really understand it. I've never read Kant (and fear it would be beyond me) and it seems self-evident that an artwork is not the artist and exists independently. I can't really conceive of a pre-Kant state of affairs where this was not the case.

Is it possible to get a summarised history of this concept, of how art was treated prior to Kant, how his ideas changed the perception of art and how current authors and critics treat autonomy in art?

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    This might be far more complicated than you think. Have a look at this question. Indeed, your question might be better served on Philosophy SE instead of here, even if of course there's overlap with literary criticism.
    – cmw
    Feb 8, 2023 at 17:40
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    You will also likely get a much better answer if you incorporate that other answer into your question. That will prevent a superficial answer that doesn't really get you closer to understanding the history (and will clarify what kind of history you're looking for: pre-autonomy, or pre-Kant).
    – cmw
    Feb 8, 2023 at 17:42


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