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Abhinavagupta, , . Abhinavabhāratī
2006, In M.M. Ghosh (ed.) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation.Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation.
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Summary: Abhinavagupta’s famed commentary on Bharatamuni’s treatise on drama, the Nāṭyaśāstra, in which he details aesthetic expression and experience according to a theory of rasa, or aesthetic relish. Abhinavagupta’s theory is the most influential account of how the rasas or aesthetic emotions transcend the bounds of the spectator and artwork in a three-part process including depersonalization, universalization, and identification.

Comment: This text is appropriate for an in-depth study of Indian aesthetics. It requires an at least an introductory background in Indian philosophy to be accessible.

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Camp, Elisabeth, , . Two Varieties of Literary Imagination: Metaphor, Fiction, and Thought Experiments
2009, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 33 (1):107-130.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Recently, philosophers have discovered that they have a lot to learn from, or at least to ponder about, fiction. Many metaphysicians are attracted to fiction as a model for our talk about purported objects and properties, such as numbers, morality, and possible worlds, without embracing a robust Platonist ontology. In addition, a growing group of philosophers of mind are interested in the implications of our engagement with fiction for our understanding of the mind and emotions: If I don’t believe that Anna Karenina exists, can I really pity her, or hope or desire that she extricate herself from her tragic situation? And why is there no ‘morality fiction,’ analogous to science fiction? I suspect that philosophers have been especially comfortable thinking about fiction because it seems, at least prima facie, to employ the imagination in a way that conforms to a standard model of the mind. Specifically, contemporary philosophers tend to think of imagination as a form of mental pretense. Mental pretense can take two main forms: a cognitive attitude of supposing a set of propositions to be true (make-believe) or else an experiential state of imaging a scenario as if it were before one (imaging). Much of our pretense intertwines the cognitive and experiential modalities, of course. But both share a crucial common feature: all of one’s imaginative effort is invested in pretending that certain contents obtain. In this sense, we can understand imagination as the ‘offline’ simulation of actual beliefs and perceptions (and perhaps other attitudes as well), where we analyze these in the normal way, as states individuated by their attitude and representational content. While I share the burgeoning interest in fiction, I want to suggest that we also have a lot to learn from poetry, and in particular from poetic metaphor. I will argue..

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Chari, V.K., , . Validity in Interpretation: Some Indian Views
1978, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36(3): 329-340.
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Summary: An outline of the theory of interpretation within the language philosophies of ancient India. Chari organizes this extensive history according to topics such as verbal autonomy, intention, unity of meaning, polysemy, contextualism, and interpretation.

Comment: This text is appropriate for discussions of language and meaning in aesthetics, as well as philosophy of language.

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Choi, Jinhee, , . All the right responses: Fiction films and warranted emotions
2003, British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (3):308-321.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Cognitive theories of emotions have provided us with explanations of how we emotionally engage with fiction, when we are aware that what is depicted is fictional. However, these theories left an important question unanswered: namely, what kinds of emotional responses to fiction are warranted responses. The main focus of this paper is how our emotional responses to fiction can be aesthetically warranted – that is, how emotions directed to fiction can be warranted given the fact that its object is an artwork. I consider three possible explanations of this phenomenon: the real-life principle, a correspondence model, and a functional model. I argue that the real-life principle and the correspondence model fall short of explaining how our emotional responses to film are aesthetically warranted, and instead I argue that a functional model provides such an explanation. In this paper, I will primarily focus on fiction films, although I will address novels and other art forms where necessary.

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Coplan, Amy, , . Caring about characters: Three determinants of emotional engagement
2006, Film and Philosophy 10:1.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: Western philosophers at least as far back as Plato and Aristotle have been interested in question concerning narrative art: what it is, why it engages us, and how engagement with it affects us. An important part of the philosophical discussion has focused on the relationship between narrative art and emotion, for many have thought the power and influence of anarrative art comes primarily form its ability to arouse strong emotions. In this paper I focus on one type of narrative art: narrative fiction film. In many ways the film viewing experience is ideal for the purpose of promoting emotional engagement. Due to the nature of narrative fiction film and the structure of the viewing experience, watching and experiencing film puts us in a unique position to become cognitively and emotionally engaged while remaining aware of the fact that the object of our engagement is fictional…

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Coplan, Amy, , . Empathic engagement with narrative fictions
2004, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (2):141-152.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: There is still little consensus among scholars regarding how best to characterize the relationship between readers of fictional narratives and the characters in those narratives. Part of the problem is that many of the explanatory concepts used in the debate – concepts like identification and empathy – are somewhat vague or ambiguous. In this article, I consider some recent relevant empirical research on text processing and narrative comprehension and argue for a pluralist account of character engagement, in which empathy plays an important role. In Section I, I review several empirical studies that strongly suggest that readers often adopt the perspective of one or more of the characters in fictional narratives. In Section II, I turn to the concept of empathy and provide an explanation of empathy based on models and research in empirical psychology. I focus in particular on self-other differentiation, a critical feature of empathy that has been underemphasized in the literature. Next I discuss two psychological phenomena that are closely related to empathy and often confused or conflated with it: emotional contagion and sympathy. In the final section of the paper, I employ the account of empathy developed in Section II to address Noel Carroll’s objections to the view that readers typically empathize with fictional characters.

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Friend, Stacie, , . Believing in Stories
2014, in Greg Currie, Matthew Kieran, Aaron Meskin, and Jon Robson (eds), Aesthetics and the Sciences of the Mind, Oxford University Press: 227-48.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Summary: There is a widespread assumption that we can learn facts from fiction: ordinary empirical facts about history, geography, society, biology, and so on. Although nothing about the nature of fiction precludes the acquisition of empirical knowledge, learning facts from fiction is far from straightforward. Fictional texts usually contain a mix of truths and falsehoods and are rarely vetted for accuracy. Readers should tread carefully in forming beliefs from fiction. Do they? According to various psychological studies, they do not. The evidence indicates that for some information, readers are at least as likely to believe what they read in fiction as in non-fiction. Friend claims that these results cast greater doubt on the possibility of empirical knowledge from fiction than standard objections in the literature. Drawing on work by Williamson and Sosa, she proposes that we meet this challenge by appeal to the competences exercised in reading fiction.

Comment: This paper concerns how we can learn from fiction, and it would be suitable as a required reading in a module on that topic.

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Friend, Stacie, , . Imagining Fact and Fiction
2008, In Kathleen Stock & Katherine Thomsen-Jones (eds.), New Waves in Aesthetics. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 150-169.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: I argue that there is no interpretation of imagining or make-believe that designates a response distinctive to fiction as opposed to nonfiction. The class of works that invite makebelieve, however it is determined, is substantially broader than our ordinary concept of fiction would allow. The question is whether there is a way of understanding the sort of imagining involved in our engagement with fictions that would carve out a narrower category. I consider various possible interpretations and argue in each case that works of nonfiction may invite the same imaginative responses as fiction, just as works of fiction may invite the same cognitive responses as nonfiction. These considerations cast doubt on definitions of fiction that appeal to make-believe, and the attempt to save the theory by restricting it to individual statements rather than whole works is unsatisfactory. A different approach to classification is required if we wish to understand the significance of the distinction.

Comment: This text would be good as further reading for students who are interested in writing a coursework essay on the topic. It is suitable in a philosophy of fiction module.

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Gatens, Moira, , . The Art and Philosophy of George Eliot
2009, Philosophy and Literature 33(1): 73-90.
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Abstract: Much remains to be said about Eliot as a philosopher. I argue that her novels should be understood as attempts to practice philosophy in an alternative key. Her decision to write novels rather than conventional philosophy reflects her desire to actively engage the imaginative and affective, as well as the cognitive, powers of her readers. On her view the imagination grounds our disposition to feel sympathy for our fellow human beings. It is this disposition and its potential for refinement as moral knowledge that she sought to realize in her novels. An appreciation of her philosophical commitments is necessary in order to understand her efforts to construct an immanent ground for moral life. The parts played by the imagination, reason and emotion in the attainment of moral knowledge were of prime concern to both Spinoza and Feuerbach. Each philosopher offered an account of the relations between these capacities and argued for their reformation. This reformative task is one that Eliot attempted in her novels. The radical holism of Spinoza and Feuerbach resonates throughout her work. She had a deep suspicion of dualistic philosophies that separate reason and imagination. Like Spinoza and Feuerbach, she understood these ruptures within our capacities, indeed within our very being, to derive in large part from religion, especially Christianity. The reform of our habitual ways of understanding the world must therefore begin with critical reflection on religion.

Comment: An article that explains the philosophical standpoint underlying George Eliot’s fiction and argues that her fiction and her philosophical thinking need to be regarded as a whole. Could be used in a course covering nineteenth-century philosophy, either as supplementary reading or as a primary reading perhaps paired with a piece of writing by Eliot.

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Keeshig-Tobias, Lenore, , . The Magic of Others
1990, In Language in Her Eye: Views on Writing and Gender by Canadian Women Writing in English, edited by Libby Scheier, Sarah Sheard and Eleanor Wachtel: Coach House Press
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

Summary: In this short selection, Keeshig-Tobias (Ojibway) raises questions about representation and authenticity in fiction about Native people written by non-Native authors. With reference to certain Native belief systems, she contextualizes why the telling of a story could be viewed as theft in a way that might seem counter-intuitive to a liberal Western audience.

Comment: This is a useful piece to pair with any of the more theoretical writings on cultural appropriation. It articulates some Native perspectives on cultural appropriation that may be less familiar to students, as well as pointing out problems with some of the assumptions on which defenses of cultural appropriation sometimes depend.

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Lovibond, Sabina, , . Iris Murdoch, Gender, and Philosophy
2011, Routledge.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: Iris Murdoch was one of the best-known philosophers and novelists of the post-war period. In this book, Sabina Lovibond explores the tangled issue of Murdoch’s stance towards gender and feminism, drawing upon the evidence of her fiction, philosophy, and other public statements. As well as analysing Murdoch’s own attitudes, Iris Murdoch, Gender and Philosophy is also a critical enquiry into the way we picture intellectual, and especially philosophical, activity. Appealing to the idea of a ‘social imaginary’ within which Murdoch’s work is located, Lovibond examines the sense of incongruity or dissonance that may still affect our image of a woman philosopher, even where egalitarian views officially hold sway. The first thorough exploration of Murdoch and gender, Iris Murdoch, Gender and Philosophy is a fresh contribution to debates in feminist philosophy and gender studies, and essential reading for anyone interested in Murdoch’s literary and philosophical writing

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Macdonald, Margaret, , . The Language of Fiction
1954, Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 28 (1):165-196.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: The opening sentence of Jane Austen’s novel Emma is a sentence from fiction. Emma is a work in which the author tells a story of characters, places and incidents almost all of which she has invented. I shall mean by ” fiction ” any similar work. For unless a work is largely, if not wholly, composed of what is invented, it will not correctly be called ” fiction “. One which contains nothing imaginary may be history, science, detection, biography, but not fiction. I want to ask some questions about how an author uses words and sentences in fiction. But my interest is logical, not literary. I shall not discuss the style or artistic skill of any storyteller. Mine is the duller task of trying to understand some of the logic of fictional language; to determine the logical character of its expressions. How do they resemble and differ from those in other contexts? What are they understood to convey? Are they, e.g., true or false statements? If so, of or about what are they true or false? If not, what other function do they perform? How are they connected? These are the questions I shall chiefly discuss.

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Nussbaum, Martha, , . The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy
2001, Cambridge University Press .
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Back matter: This book is a study of ancient views about ‘moral luck’. It examines the fundamental ethical problem that many of the valued constituents of a well-lived life are vulnerable to factors outside a person’s control, and asks how this affects our appraisal of persons and their lives. The Greeks made a profound contribution to these questions, yet neither the problems nor the Greek views of them have received the attention they deserve. This book thus recovers a central dimension of Greek thought and addresses major issues in contemporary ethical theory. One of its most original aspects is its interrelated treatment of both literary and philosophical texts. The Fragility of Goodness has proven to be important reading for philosophers and classicists, and its non-technical style makes it accessible to any educated person interested in the difficult problems it tackles.

Comment: Apart from offering an in-depth study of moral luck, the book presents interesting criticisms of Plato’s ethics and commentaries on Aristotle.

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Nussbaum, Martha Craven, , . Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature
1990, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Publisher’s Note: This volume brings together Nussbaum’s published papers on the relationship between literature and philosophy, especially moral philosophy. The papers, many of them previously inaccessible to non-specialist readers, explore such fundamental issues as the relationship between style and content in the exploration of ethical issues; the nature of ethical attention and ethical knowledge and their relationship to written forms and styles; and the role of the emotions in deliberation and self-knowledge. Nussbaum investigates and defends a conception of ethical understanding which involves emotional as well as intellectual activity, and which gives a certain type of priority to the perception of particular people and situations rather than to abstract rules. She argues that this ethical conception cannot be completely and appropriately stated without turning to forms of writing usually considered literary rather than philosophical. It is consequently necessary to broaden our conception of moral philosophy in order to include these forms. Featuring two new essays and revised versions of several previously published essays, this collection attempts to articulate the relationship, within such a broader ethical inquiry, between literary and more abstractly theoretical elements.

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Rand, Ayn, , . The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature
1969, New York, World Pub. Co.
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Publisher’s note: In this beautifully written and brilliantly reasoned book, Ayn Rand throws a new light on the nature of art and its purpose in human life. Once again Miss Rand eloquently demonstrates her refusal to let popular catchwords and conventional ideas stand between her and the truth as she has discovered it. The Romantic Manifesto takes its place beside The Fountainhead as one of the most important achievements of our time.

Comment: Teaching this text might be quite challenging, as the theory proposed is very revisionist. The text can be inspiring in two ways. Firstly, it can encourage a discussion on the status of the avant-garde and most abstract art forms – some students will likely share the sentiment that many such works are not art. Second, Rand’s definition has clear normative undertones: it is not only about what art is, but about what art is for and what its purpose should be. It might be instructive to use her text to inspire a discussion on whether we should expect definitions of art to cover these points.

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