In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews115 the area of relatively undeveloped theory is a place where one is most likely to find life. And so much of the discussion shows this potential for greater life. What is required to provide this life is a greater awareness of methodology. Some of the most interesting and frustrating sections, for example that dealing with temporal relations, contain a great deal oftechnical vocabulary clearly supported by an interesting taxonomy of literary phenomena; but the taxonomy is not in turn supported by a deductive, explanatory theory. Thus the descriptions of the phenomena which Rimmon-Kenan summarizes appear rather sowhatish , like phenomena in search of an explanation. There is a degree of arbitrariness about them too which makes one ask why these phenomena have been selected and why in this fashion. This again is not the author's fault but clearly a reflection of the state of the art. This state is reflected in the derivative nature of the theories which form the underpinning of much current literary theory. Structuralist theories take over much of the theoretical baggage of a now largely outmoded and partly inadequate kind of linguistics. Other theorists, for example Rimmon-Kenan, use the terms "Deep Structure," "Surface Structure," and "Transformation," borrowed from Chomskian generative linguistic theory (with no reference to their technical meaning in generative theory) as metaphors. This is theoretically naive. One cannot borrow theory from other disciplines and use it as metaphor without the theory becoming vacuous. Literary theories must set up their own constructs and give them meaning, certainly using what is known about language, but a Chomskian deep structure is a formal object meeting certain formal constraints. A Rimmon-Kenian narrative deep structure isn't. This then is a good book — good because it shows something ofwhat has been done, but even better because it gives some hint of what is still to be accomplished . University of Canterbury, New ZealandKoenraad Kuiper Fictional Narrative and Truth: An Epistemic Analysis, by L. B. Cebik; ix & 250 pp. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1984, $23.75 cloth, $12.50 paper. Can diere be truth in fiction? An old chestnut, indeed. But the topic is always intriguing and the last word has definitely not been said. This book does all the right preliminaries for a clear hard look at the problem. It confines itself to logical principles, concentrating on fictional narrative per se and truthper se. The simplest bedtime story is, qua fiction, as eligible for discus- 1 16Philosophy and Literature sion as The Brothers Karamazov. And truth is restricted to prepositional truth, thereby excluding all watered down versions where "truth" means "sincerity," "profundity," "thought-provoking," and the rest. Cebik rightly insists that there are different perspectives on the question. He identifies three: the epistemic, the aesthetic, and the heuristic. Only the epistemic occupies him. The heuristic concerns the uses of fiction and the aesthetic its evaluation. Spurious controversies (as, he thinks, between RyIe and Moore on "imaginary objects") arise from failure to mark these distinctions. So far, so good. But what is the epistemic perspective? "Epistemic" turns out to be not quite the right word. "Logical" would be better. Cebik is not concerned with knowledge or belief but with the conditions under which truth can be derived from fiction: the logical possibility. A tension between logical possibility and the genuinely epistemic runs through the book. We can see this in the book's three main theses, which are: (1) Fiction can convey no new truths; (2) The only truths derivable from fiction are presuppositions, namely "generalizations which both author and reader tacitly accept as necessary conditions for understanding the statements of fiction" (p. 12); and (3) Fiction can occasionally offer "conceptual proposals" which are not in themselves truths but which can determine what is true through the creation of new concepts. Thesis (1) suffers from an obscurity in the idea ofa "new truth." Truthper se, that is, logically speaking, is timeless; it cannot be "new" or "old." Scientists discover truths, they do not invent them. Of course, epistemically truths can be new, but this can only mean that knowledge of truths can be new. Cebik has not shown that we cannot learn new things from fiction...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 115-117
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.