The paradox of fiction: the report versus the perceptual model

Matravers, Derek (1997). The paradox of fiction: the report versus the perceptual model. In: Hjort, Mette and Laver, Sue eds. Emotion and the Arts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 78–92.



I am going to assume, in what follows, that when we engage with a fiction we are participating in a game of make-believe; that is (if you prefer), that we are engaging in an imaginative effort. In this paper I shall attempt to identify the kind of game we are playing. I begin with two words of caution. First, identifying the kind of game will be a matter of finding a game whose structure best reflects the facts about our engagement with fiction. The fit, however, will not be exact. In a game of mud pies, the fact that the cardboard box holds a maximum of six globs of mud may make it true in the game that the oven holds a maximum of six pies, but the fact that the box has "Fyffes bananas" written on the side of it will probably not make it true in the game that the oven has the same. Second the variety of works of fiction makes it unwise to assume that one kind of game will cover all cases. These two provisos might be thought to vitiate my project before it begins. In the face of an objection to my first proviso, namely, that the kind of make-believe I maintain we play with fiction does not mirror the facts of our relations with fiction, I can reply that the structure is not isomorphic in that particular respect. In reply to the claim that in some particular instance we do not play the game of make-believe that I suggest we do, I can simply agree and count it as one of the many exceptions to the rule.

Viewing alternatives

No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions