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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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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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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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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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Robinson, Jenefer, , Ross, Stephanie. Women, Morality, and Fiction
1990, Hypatia 5 (2):76-90.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: We apply Carol Gilligan’s distinction between a “male” mode of moral reasoning, focussed on justice, and a “female” mode, focussed on caring, to the reading of literature. Martha Nussbaum suggests that certain novels are works of moral philosophy. We argue that what Nussbaum sees as the special ethical contribution of such novels is in fact training in the stereotypically female mode of moral concern. We show this kind of training is appropriate to all readers of these novels, not just to women. Finally, we explore what else is involved in distinctively feminist readings of traditional novels

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Schaper, Eva, , . Fiction and the suspension of disbelief
1978, British Journal of Aesthetics 18 (1):31-44.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: I want to suggest that the notion of the suspension of disbelief cannot coherently be used to explain or account for our reactions to fictional characters and events, and that in any case it is unnecessary to the solution of the alleged paradox. I take fiction here to cover art works in which a story is told, presented or represented, i.e. novels, short stories, plays, certain kinds of painting and sculpture and dance-any works in fact is connection with which it makes sense to speak of characters appearing and events taking place in them.

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Stock, Kathleen, , . Imagining and Fiction: Some Issues
2013, Philosophy Compass 8: 887-96
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Abstract: In this paper, I survey in some depth three issues arising from the connection between imagination and fiction: (i) whether fiction can be defined as such in terms of its prescribing imagining; (ii) whether imagining in response to fiction is de se, or de re, or both; (iii) the phenomenon of ‘imaginative resistance’ and various explanations for it.

Comment: Very introductory text which would be suitable for undergraduates in a philosophy of fiction module.

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Stock, Kathleen, , . Learning from fiction and theories of fictional content
2016, Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy (3):69-83.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper I present an objection to the theory of fictional content known as ‘hypothetical intentionalism’. It centres around the fact that certain sentences in fictions can both imply fictional truths and convey testimony, to be believed by the reader. I argue that hypothetical intentionalism cannot easily make sense of this fact; whereas actual author intentionalism (a rival to hypothetical intentionalism) can.

Comment: This text would be good as further reading for students who are particularly interested in intentionalism and how things can be true in fiction.

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Stock, Kathleen, , . Only imagine: fiction, interpretation and imagination
2017, Oxford: Oxford University Press
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: In the first half of this book, I offer a theory of fictional content or, as it is sometimes known, ‘fictional truth’.The theory of fictional content I argue for is ‘extreme intentionalism’. The basic idea – very roughly, in ways which are made precise in the book – is that the fictional content of a particular text is equivalent to exactly what the author of the text intended the reader to imagine. The second half of the book is concerned with showing how extreme intentionalism and the lessons learnt from it can illuminate cognate questions in the philosophy of fiction and imagination. For instance, I argue, my position helps us to explain how fiction can provide us with reliable testimony; it helps explain the phenomenon of imaginative resistance; and it fits with, and so supports, a persuasive theory of the nature of fiction itself. In my final chapter, I show how attending to intentionalist practices of interpreting fictional content can illuminate the nature of propositional imagining itself.

Comment: This book would be good to read chapter by chapter in a module which focussed exclusively on it, perhaps with supplemantary readings which relate to the topic of each chapter. It would be a good for a third year module.

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Thomasson, Amie L., , . Fictional characters and literary practices
2003, British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (2):138-157.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: I argue that the ontological status of fictional characters is determined by the beliefs and practices of those who competently deal with works of literature, and draw out three important consequences of this. First, heavily revisionary theories cannot be considered as ‘discoveries’ about the ‘true nature’ of fictional characters; any acceptable realist theory of fiction must preserve all or most of the common conception of fictional characters. Second, once we note that the existence conditions for fictional characters are extremely minimal, it makes little sense to deny the existence of fictional characters, leaving anti-realist views of fiction unmotivated. Finally, the role of ordinary beliefs and practices in determining facts about the ontology of fictional characters explains why non-revisionary theories of fiction are bound to yield no determinate or precise answer to certain questions about fictional characters, demonstrating the limits of a theory of fiction

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Worth, Sarah E., , . Fictional spaces
2004, Philosophical Forum 35 (4):439-455.
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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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