[ilds] Fact and Fiction

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Oct 20 10:28:01 PDT 2009


Depends on what you mean by "just words, words, words."  Words as  
perceptions, thoughts, language?  As for Tolstoy's Napoleon, I'll be  
entirely conventional and say he's fiction, with a little fact thrown  
in.  But what about Emil Ludwig's Napoleon?  Is he fact or fiction?   
That famous biography is fact, no?  Well, maybe, and only insofar as  
it's accurate.  Is it true?  Do we ever know anyone so well as to say,  
this is the way he or she really and truly is or was?  Here, we're  
getting close to Durrell's idea of "selected fictions," which opens up  
the debate.  So, we need not limit this idea to represented works.

Here's a story from the newspapers of some years back.  A funeral was  
held for a successful businessman in Florida.  At the gravesite were  
his wife and children.  Also at the gravesite were another wife and  
children.  Both families had never met before.  Both women shared the  
same husband, lived fifty miles apart, and were completely unaware of  
one another.  You might say the deceased husband read Durrell's  
Quartet and decided to live his own "selected fictions."  So, as far  
as the respective "wives" were concerned, you might also say the man  
they knew was a "fiction."  He was not what he seemed (and here,  
Charles can bring in Hamlet on "seems").

The confusion here arises from the use of language.  "Fiction" is a  
word with several senses, a couple of which I have just used.  I  
prefer to reserve "fiction" for the imagination.  For what the wives  
experienced, I would say they were deceived and their husband a gross  


On Oct 19, 2009, at 6:30 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:

> 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.
> Bill
> Bruce
> 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

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20091020/c5ebe2a1/attachment.html 

More information about the ILDS mailing list