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ON WALTON'S AND CURRIE'S ANALYSES OF LITERARY FICTION by Anders Pettersson Kendall Walton's Mimesis as Mate-Believe and Gregory Currie's TL· Nature ofFiction, both published in 1990, deal largely with fictionality in the arts.1 Walton's and Currie's theories of fiction are by no means identical, but there are points of close similarity between them, mainly because Currie is influenced by Walton in one important respect: Currie essentially accepts Walton's well-known idea that there are significant parallels between art and literature on the one hand and games of make-believe on the other (Currie, pp. xi-xii; 18-19). In MimesL· as Mate-Believe, Walton's main example ofa game ofmakebelieve is the game that all stumps are dangerous bears, played by two boys in the woods. Being a typical game of make-believe, it operates with what Walton calls "props." Props are play objects, stumps in this case, that have a determinate representational function ascribed to them by the game's so-called principles ofgeneration: in the game in question, to meet with a stump counts as meeting a dangerous bear. Current theories about the importance of fantasies are supposed to help us explain the value of such games of make-believe. Walton holds that the viewing of art and the reading of literature can be seen as games of make-believe. The artistic or literary work corresponds to the prop, and our established viewing and reading practices imply principles of generation (p. 139). On viewing a painting or reading fiction, therefore, we enter the world ofa game ofmake-believe. Philosophy and Literature, © 1993, 17: 84-97 Anders Pettersson85 In reading fiction, for example, we normally make-believe, according to Walton and Currie, that we are reading, or listening to, a truthful account from a fictive narrator. Let us consider the first sentence of Ernest Hemingway's story The Old Man and tL· Sea (1952): "He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish."2 If we analyze the reader's activities in the spirit of Walton and Currie, the reader, here, makes-believe that a fictive narrator is truthfully telling him about an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream.3 Just like other sorts of make-believe, this kind is supposed to have valuable effects— cognitive, emotional, and others. Personally, I do not subscribe to Walton's and Currie's ideas about what we do as viewers of art or readers of fiction. In this essay I shall give my main reasons for doubting their analyses. In doing so, I shall concentrate on the fundamental idea that art-viewing and fiction-reading involve playing games of make-believe. I shall primarily discuss Walton's and Currie's views on the reading of fiction, since it seems to me that the problems with their analyses become especially noticeable in that context. I believe, however, that my arguments in the following are, if duly expanded and modified, just as relevant where visual art is concerned. Mimesis as Mate-Believe and The Nature ofFiction are books of considerable merit, and my criticisms are not to be understood as reflecting my general impression of these two works. My purpose here is simply to argue that to read literature or view art is not to play a game of make-believe. As an overall evaluation of Walton's and Currie's books, this essay would be both one-sided and ungenerous. II My conviction that Walton's and Currie's analyses are incorrect is due mainly to the fact that I myself, as far as I know, never play games of make-believe when reading literature. As I read a book like TL· Old Man and the Sea, I follow the unrolling of the events, well aware that these are fictitious, and I react to what I read. I have what is sometimes solemnly called a literary experience. But I do not seem to enter the world of a game of make-believe, where I read an authentic account of the...


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pp. 84-97
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