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Hugh Wilder INTENTIONS AND THE VERY IDEA OF FICTION Is the road t? fiction paved with good intentions? Those I call "intentional realists" say it is: there are such things as "fictive intentions," and works offiction are literary realizations of such intentions. Gregory Currie has recently developed a version of intentional realism in the context of a speech-act analysis of "the very notion of fiction."1 I argue here that there is more to fiction than the right intentions, and indeed more to fiction than can be contained in any conceptual analysis of "the notion of fiction." Currie's proposal is a carefully articulated version of a theory offiction which I believe is fundamentally mistaken; it deserves our attention. Currie offers a robust version of speech-act theory to help explain what fiction is. "Half-hearted" versions (e.g., Searle's) are unhelpful, argues Currie, because they fail to recognize the "distinctively fictional" speech acts—"fictive illocutionary acts"—performed by authors in producing works of fiction. The author of fiction does not pretend to perform speech acts; rather, he or she performs fictive illocutionary acts, which are invitations to readers to "play a game of make-believe" about the story being told. "What is essential to fiction," in Currie's view, is the issuing of this invitation, effected by the author's performance of a fictive illocutionary act ("WoF," p. 305). Currie adapts the Grice-Strawson-Searle intentional analysis ofspeech acts in his definition of fictive illocutionary acts, and Kendall Walton's notion of "make-belief" in his analysis of the reader's attitude which authors of fiction intend to produce. Informally, the author of fiction intends his or her readers to make-believe the propositions uttered, and intends the readers to recognize this intention and to come to makebelieve the propositions as a result of their recognition. An author performs a fictive iUocutionary act just in case he or she utters prop70 Hugh Wilder71 ositions with these intentions; and a proposition is fictionaljust in case it is the product of the performance of a fictive illocutionary act.2 The right intentions are crucial: "the author intends that the reader will read the work as fiction because he [the reader] perceives the work to be fiction; that is, because he realizes it to be the product of a certain intention" ("WiF," p. 387). Currie proposes his analysis of fictive illocutionary acts in answer to the question, "What is fiction?", and his analysis is an attempt to specify the necessary and sufficient conditions for the performance of a fictive illocutionary act and for the production of fiction. I will turn later to the metaphysical assumptions which seem to underlie this project; first, however, it will be helpful to follow Currie's discussion of two types of counterexample to his analysis as sketched so far. One sort of counterexample shows that the stated conditions are not necessary in the production of fiction. I can intend to produce a work of nonfiction—by intending my readers to believe rather than to makebelieve my story about some good but eccentric citizens of a small Ohio town, for example—and yet succeed in producing a work of fiction. How can this happen? Currie frames his answer in terms of a distinction between a "core category" (paradigm cases?) and a "secondary category" offiction ("WiF," p. 388). Hard-core fiction is defined in terms of authorial fictive intentions ; second-class fiction is defined, however, in terms of readers' ways of reading. An intended work of nonfiction may be read as fiction (readers may ignore or misconstrue an author's intimations of his or her intentions), and if this way of (mis)reading the work becomes the "prevailing tendency in the community" then the work is fiction, secondclass . Currie is still an intentionalist and a realist about hard-core fiction: "Just about anything can be read as fiction, but not everything is fiction" ("WoF," p. 306, emphasis added). Whether a work is fiction—in the core category—still depends on the author producing the work with the right intentions. Another sort of counterexample shows that the stated conditions are not sufficient for the production of fiction. I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 70-79
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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