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Reviews349 reading of diese films through an allegorical operation whereby each film is "decoded" as an expression ofa "collective" or "political unconscious": the most convincing of his allegorical readings here are of Stanley Kubrick's TL· Shining and Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon. While clearly not Jameson's most important book, Signatures of tL· Visihh is well worth the reader's time, especially as a testing ground for the interpretive procedures set forth in earlier works. Though there are few surprises in this study, Jameson apdy demonstrates why he remains among the most significant literary tiieorists of the late twentieth century. University of California, RiversideChristopher Wise The Nature of Fiction, by Gregory Currie; xii & 222 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, $39.50. Currie's book is clear and interesting. He places his discussion within the widercontextofthe philosophy oflanguage, with its concern for the connections between meaning, reference, and truth. At each stage he reviews the major alternatives to his own views. Fiction is characterized as the product of fictive intent and, if true, as at most accidentally true. The "fictive intent" is that we make-believe the constituent propositions of the text and do so by recognizing that we are intended to do so. What is true in fiction (for example, that Holmes is a smoker) is a matter of what the story's teller believes. The strategies for working out what is true in a fiction are make-believe equivalents of the strategies by which we infer others' beliefs. The teller of the story is a fictional construct, a fictional author rather than the actual author. (If the story has a narrator, the fictional author is not always its narrator.) Reliable inference to the fictional author's beliefs requires knowledge not only ofwhat is given in the text, but also of the relevant facts about the community in which the work was written. (This community usually will be that to which the real author belongs.) Because individuals may hold inconsistent (and even contradictory) beliefs, fictions may contain conflicting truths. Different, equally reasonable interpretations of the same text are possible. Though, sometimes, there may be no rational choice to be made between different interpretations, rational choice between interpretations often is possible. Fictional names (such as "Holmes") are discussed at length. On Currie's view, fictional names do not function semantically as proper names. Within the fiction, 350Philosophy and Literature "Holmes" functions as a bound variable—as the particular someone the fictional author has in mind. In metafictive utterances (where, for example, the reader talks of Holmes's exploits), "Holmes" functions as an abbreviated description. In transfictive contexts (where, for example, Holmes is compared to Poirot), "Holmes" refers to a role. Emotional responses to fictional characters are responses in which the cognitive function standardly performed by belief is performed, instead, by makebelief , and the role standardly filled by desire is taken, instead, by make-desire. The appropriate response to a fiction is not always the same as the appropriate response to an actual situation—death can be an occasion for humor. Appropriateness is a matter of the congruence between the reader's response and die emotion expressed in the work; which is to say, the emotion experienced by the fictional author. The virtue of Currie's theory, as he sees it, is that it avoids positing the existence of fictional worlds and fictional characters, that it preserves the rationality of emotional responses to fictions, and that it does these things while relying on a standard (Gricean) account of communication and on the familiar notion of make-believe. One's agreement in this will depend largely on one's assessment of two matters—whether the notion of a fictional author can carry the burden placed on it, and whether Currie's analysis offictional names survives scrutiny. At times Currie moves from talk of the fictional author to talk of the actual author—for instance, in discussing both the intentional fallacy and textual identity. Such moves may be legitimate; there is bound to be a connection between the actual author's intentions and the belief-systems of the fictional author. I feel, though, that the relationship between the two might have received...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 349-350
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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