Academic journal article Style

Are Fielding's Shamela and Richardson's Pamela One and the Same Person? A Contribution to the Problem of the Number of Fictive Worlds

Academic journal article Style

Are Fielding's Shamela and Richardson's Pamela One and the Same Person? A Contribution to the Problem of the Number of Fictive Worlds

Article excerpt

1

The most fundamental question in the theory of fiction is probably that concerning reference, namely, the question: do fictional texts have extralinguistic referents? The answers to this question fluctuate between yes and no, with the naysayers seeming to be by far in the majority, and at first sight they appear to be right.

Nevertheless, the opinion that fictional texts are without extralinguistic referents is doomed to encounter serious logical difficulties. (1) For what the claim that fictional texts do not have extralinguistic referents implies is--to take just one example--that their heroes do not exist. But how, if they do not exist, can these heroes act of suffer? And how can they ever die? The inevitable solution to this conundrum is: they must exist. But the question which still remains is: where? My answer is: they exist within a world that is fictive. (2)

In contradistinction to the nonfictive world we live in, the fictive world in which the heroes of a fictional text live is only one possible world among innumerably many. Note that I call the actual texts which create both the heroes and the world they live in "fictional," and the heroes and the worlds created by them "fictive." As we will see below, not only persons of objects, but texts too may be characterized as fictive. Texts are to be characterized as fictive when they are part of a fictive world. Within the fictive world such fictive texts may, in their turn, be either fictional or nonfictional. Moreover, I argue that every narrative fictional text has a fictive stratum. This is the stratum of the narrative fictional text produced not by the actual author, but by the--fictive narrator (anonymous of not) who has himself been created by the actual author in the act of writing narrative fiction. In the eyes of the fictive narrator this fictive stratum is, of course, nonfictive. While on the plane of the nonfictive there is only one world, namely the one we nonfictive beings live in, on the plane of the fictive there are--and this is my claim--as many worlds as there are fictional texts. (3) Every fictional text has its own fictive world, and between the various fictive worlds of the various fictional texts there is no connection. In this, fictional texts differ fundamentally from nonfictional texts. For whereas every fictional text has its own (fictive) world--a world which it creates, all nonfictional texts refer to one and the same world, the nonfictive world we live in, a world which instead of being created by these texts is presupposed (and, at most, modified) by them.

My thesis has some fundamental implications. It implies that the places in which the fictive actions of different fictional texts take place always belong to different worlds, even if their names are the same. It further implies that the times in which the fictive actions of different fictional texts take place always belong to different (and mutually unrelatable) calendars and eras, even if the dating expressions (e.g., "in 1642") suggest identity. My thesis implies moreover that the persons of different fictional texts are different even if they bear the same names. And, what is more, not only are they different, but they also have no possibility of getting in contact with one another or even merely learning something about each other.

To many readers these implications may seem strange or even abstruse, so that they may well refuse to accept my thesis. For who, confronted, say, with two novels whose setting is Berlin in the year 1900, would accept the claim that the actions of these novels take place in spatially and temporally wholly different worlds? Who, confronted with two novels about Napoleon, would doubt the existential identity of their respective heroes?

Nevertheless, I believe it is possible to convince readers of the non-identity of these entities. The only thing one has to do is to realize that Berlin as the place and 1900 as the time of the fictive actions are themselves fictive entities and as such existentially incompatible with the homonymous spatial and chronological entities, the city and the year, in our nonfictive world. …

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