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Section Information for Spring 2017
The concept of “fiction” is fundamental to our thinking about literature, but what would a robust account of the concept look like? What are the implications of characterizing a discourse as fictive? How have notions of fiction developed through cultural history and how have these notions affected our conception of literature? This course seeks to investigate the notion of fiction both in terms of conceptual analysis and cultural history.
In the Western tradition, people have been thinking about the nature of fiction and its implications at least since the time of Plato, but there is good reason to think that our modern ideas of fiction, especially in relation to literature, differ from pre-modern conceptions. How do our notions of “fiction” relate to our understanding of various other things, including lies, deceit, masquerade, make-believe, play, jokes, imagination, creation, bullshit, myth, legend, fact, truth, history, reality, fantasy, illusion, hypothesis, modeling, supposition, utopia, dream, vision? In this course, we will read several different explorations of the concept of fiction, some with an analytical focus, others with a historical focus, and we will consider a handful of literary examples as texts to think with as we explore the issues raised by the theorists and scholars. Readings for the course may touch on such themes as pious frauds, the lies of the poets, fictive truth, factual fictions, and the role of fiction in relation to empathy, cognition, and envisioning change. It’s a very large terrain and we will only be able to address selected portions of it.
Satisfies the English BA requirement for the concentration in cultural studies.
Satisfies the English BA requirement for the concentration in contemporary world literature.
Investigates a problem or debate central to the discipline of English. Teaches students how to read, understand, and engage with theoretical texts.
May be repeated for credit when topic is different.