Truth-Claiming in Fiction: Towards a Poetics of Literary Assertion

Nordic Journal of Aesthetics 38 (18):34 (2009)
In the contemporary analytic philosophy of literature and especially literary theory, the paradigmatic way of understanding the beliefs and attitudes expressed in works of literary narrative fiction is to attribute them to an implied author, an entity which the literary critic Wayne C. Booth introduced in his influential study The Rhetoric of Fiction. Roughly put, the implied author is an entity between the actual author and the narrator whose beliefs and attitudes cannot be appropriately ascribed to the actual author. Over the decades, this “the author’s second self,” a construct the actual author is seen to create in her act of writing, has gained an established place in literary theory. In the philosophy of literature, in turn, the implied author has evolved into multiple entities; it has been represented and developed as, for instance, “the postulated author” (Alexander Nehamas), “the fictional author” (Gregory Currie) and “the model author” (Umberto Eco). The aim of this paper is to suggest that although the implied author, and its philosophical counterparts, sheds light on certain types of narratives, it is insufficient in approaches which emphasize the truth-claims conveyed by a work. In what follows, I try to show that, first, from an ontological point of view, actual assertions in literary fiction, if any, have to be attributed to the actual author and, second, that the question of truth-claiming in and by literary fiction is an epistemological matter concerning the actual intentions of the author.
Keywords literature  fiction  interpretation  implied author  actual author  truth-claiming
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