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Worth, Sarah E., , . Fictional spaces
2004, Philosophical Forum 35 (4):439-455.
Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Plato claims that representational art is dangerous because of its deceptive nature. He thinks that those who indulge too much in imitation will eventually have problems differentiating between imitation and reality. Aristotle, on the other hand, believes that indulging oneself in imitation (specifically theatrical tragedy) is healthy if the experience produces a catharsis – which would help one function better in real life. There has been a long-standing debate between these two positions on representation, both of them still having different strengths even when applied to contemporary situations. Ancient theories often hold special value when they continue to help us understand current issues, but what would Plato make of an IMAX film? Would Aristotle claim the same kind of catharsis could result from virtual reality, as a tragedy presented on the stage in ancient Greece? In what follows, I will use the theories of Plato and Aristotle as a foundation, and then move on to describe the changing nature of representation in order to explain how different kinds of media can affect our understanding of representation and our responses to it. Plato and Aristotle introduced the difficult moral and epistemological questions that result from the differentiation between reality and mimesis, or representation. Although there are still problems in explaining our real reactions to represented events, one aspect of the problem has changed significantly in the 20thcentury: the media through which the fictions or representations are presented. The changing nature of the media of fictional discourse calls for a reexamination of the theory we employ in understanding these experiences. In order to understand what effect the changing nature of the media has on these experiences, I will explore two other topics that will help clarify both the problems and the solutions. First, the changing concepts of what count as ‘mimetic’ and what count as ‘fictional’ need to be clarified in order that we know the kinds of discourses with which we are dealing. The Greek term mimesis, however, needs to be unpacked into the current terminology to account for the different aspects of representation, narrative, and fiction. Second, I will provide a general explanation of how fiction affects its readers according to current aesthetic theory as compared to ancient theory. Having dealt with these preliminary concerns, I will then argue that the changing nature of the media of representation changes the explanations of our experiences of fiction, which have been accounted for by earlier theory. I will argue further that these responses may in fact be more dependent upon the quality of the narrative structure of the fiction than the mode or media through which it is presented.

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