[ilds] real emotions and unreal figures

Godshalk, William (godshawl) godshawl at ucmail.uc.edu
Mon Oct 19 18:30:20 PDT 2009

Bruce writes:

Bill's next question might
be, "Why are they confusing things?" My reply, "They're just young and
childish, or they're old and childish."

I respond:

That's making light of complex issue. I think. Napoleon is at presence not amongst us. When he appears in a book of fiction -- and he does -- is he a real person or a fictional character? Both? Does context really count here? Or is Napoleon at present always just words, words, words? 

And so on.



On Oct 19, 2009, at 8:37 AM, Marc Piel wrote:

> Surely they are "caricatures". The question is how
> far a caricature is based on reality?
> Marc
> Bruce Redwine a écrit :
>> Bill,
>> Back from a lecture on Tutankhamun's medicine cabinet and all the
>> speculations Egyptologists like to indulge in.  I love it for that;
>> it's
>> another kind of imaginative thinking.  Never let anyone fool you that
>> archaeology is a science — it ain't.  Along this line, I have
>> absolutely
>> never thought of Shakespeare's characters as "real" and seriously
>> doubt,
>> if you questioned your students closely, any of them really think
>> they
>> are.  Better question, what did Shakespeare think?  I think
>> Prospero's
>> stuff-of-dream speech /(//Tempest, /IV, 1, 156ff) gives you the
>> probably
>> answer.  Who thinks Sherlock is real?  You gotta be kidding me.
>> And the
>> Soaps — they're pure late afternoon escapism, mainly for
>> housewives, I
>> bet, bored with their lot.  No, the world would be a far worse place
>> without Hamlet and Holmes.  They give hope and deliverance from the
>> real
>> world.  Remember, God is a humorist.
>> Bruce
>> On Oct 18, 2009, at 3:16 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>>> Bruce,
>>> You and Norm may not be that far asunder. Let me read the book and
>>> let
>>> you know.
>>> About the reality of fictional characters, I can report that my
>>> students always (maybe not always, but often) talk about
>>> Shakespeare's
>>> characters as if they are real -- same as the ladies in the grocery
>>> talk about the soaps as if they are real.
>>> Everyone thinks Sherlock Holmes is a real dective -- don't they?
>>> Would the world be a better place if Hamlet and Holmes had never
>>> been
>>> written?
>>> Bill
>>> W. L. Godshalk *
>>> Department of English    *           *
>>> University of Cincinnati*   * Stellar Disorder  *
>>> OH 45221-0069 *  *
>>> ________________________________________
>>> From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca <mailto:ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca>
>>> [ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On Behalf Of Bruce Redwine
>>> [bredwine1968 at earthlink.net]
>>> Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 4:44 PM
>>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca <mailto:ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
>>> Cc: Bruce Redwine
>>> Subject: Re: [ilds] real emotions and unreal figures
>>> Bill,
>>> Deep question.  I guess everything people perceive (very broadly),
>>> in
>>> a scientific sense, can be reduced to neurons in the brain.  Off
>>> hand,
>>> however, testing my own feelings, I don't think of literature as
>>> "unreal people whom we think of as real."  I know I'm going into
>>> another dimension, the author's Imagination, whatever that is and
>>> whatever that is in tuned to, and great authors make this transition
>>> more enjoyable than others.  I happened yesterday to take up Emily
>>> Brontë's poetry once again, and her receptivity to "the Invisible"
>>> struck me as very similar to Durrell's.  Does anyone think of
>>> Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw as "real?"  Or Justine and Darley?  I
>>> doubt it.  They're a part of Emily's and Durrell's worlds, which we
>>> readers want to inhabit, however momentarily.  I'm arguing for
>>> something mystical, which is the best way I can express it right
>>> now,
>>> and against something in Holland's line of inquiry, if I
>>> understand it
>>> correctly.
>>> Bruce
>>> On Oct 18, 2009, at 12:56 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>>>         " All my life, I've been fascinated by the way people relate
>>> to literature and the arts. As a result, I have been teaching and
>>> writing about psychoanalytic psychology. cognitive science, and what
>>> they tell us about the responses of readers to literary texts,
>>> movies,
>>> and occasionally the other arts.
>>>         " Recently, I've gotten intensely interested in what
>>> neuropsychology has to say about the literary process. My most
>>> recent
>>> book, Literature and the Brain tells how our brains function in
>>> special ways when we are transported by a story, a poem, a play,
>>> or a
>>> movie. We no longer sense our bodies or our environment. We do not
>>> disbelieve the most imporbable things, and we feel real emotions
>>> towards people and situations that we know are quite unreal.
>>> Literature and the Brain explains that our brains behave in this
>>> special way because we know that we cannot act to change the work of
>>> art. The book goes on to address some basic questions about
>>> literature. What makes us sense some language as literary? What does
>>> it mean when we say a literary work is good or great or awful? What
>>> brain states account for literary creativity? Why have all
>>> cultures in
>>> all times, so far as we know, had some form of language art?"
>>> So writes Norman Holland about his newest book, Literature and the
>>> Brain. I have not read the book, but I hope it gives us a way
>>> (another
>>> way) of dealing with the problem of unreal people whom we think of
>>> as
>>> real. I think of women checking out at a grocery store and talking
>>> about the soaps.
>>> Bill

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