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Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Michael G'Francisco


"The Theory of Fiction" tells us the truth of what has happened, as in news, but it does not mean it is false. People perceive that fiction is something untrue. Fiction is about possible things in possible worlds

Aristotle's Collection
[29 Books]

The works of Aristotle may well have begun "The Theories of Fiction". A good story is prescriptive and must do this or that. How do we perceive that certain stories are effective? Once we understanding how stories work, this will allow us to write better stories. The Greek word Aristotle used was "MYTHOS" or fable / plot. Aristotle believed that all forms of poetry are essentially a kind of fiction. A good example of this work is, Aristotle on the Art of Fiction, "The Poetics", translated and edited by Leonard James Potts (1968).

In the Poetics, Aristotle was concerned primarily with discussing the epic poem and the dominant forms of drama, comedy and tragedy. Aristotle's fiction was composed in dialogue, not prose, and not the same as dominates our time: the novel, novella and the short story.

The telling of stories predates speech. Sign language, wall and animal skin drawings have been telling us tribal folklore since the time of the cave people. The impulse to make up characters is part of the history of all people, cultures and countries.

With speech came oral stories and storytellers used voice and manner in the telling of a story. The injection of voice density into a tale's material held captive the listeners. Fiction of the deeds of dead spirits presents extraordinary influential power over the teller's audience.

In the writings of Jeremy Bentham's A Curious Double Language, he claims that the theory of fiction and the theory of fact, are inseparable aspects of the same cognitive process. In his view, fictions create facts, which are fictions. Bentham (1748-1832) was an English lawyer and a utilitarian philosopher.

Another very interesting read about literary probability and make-believe in relation to probability more broadly conceived and theories of fictions is University of California's Professor Robert Newsom's 1988, A Likely Story. In Newsom's work, he provides a detailed historical account of both philosophical and literary discussions about probability, but he also presents a complex and persuasive theory about the logical relationships between the fictional and the real. Newsom relates the key to the nature of fiction is the nature of belief engineered by fiction.

When entering the literary world of "Myth's", it can be assumed that Myth is generally a synonym for untrue. According to Hayden White mythical thinking takes signs and symbols for the things they represent and takes metaphors literally.

Hayden V. White (1928) is a Tennessee historian who is quite famous for his work in "Metahistory" (1973), but his essay The Burden of History (vol. 5 no.2 1966) forges into two burdens: the burden felt by the historian who works awkwardly from the middle-spaces between the imaginative, creative arts and the hard sciences, and the burden of history itself bearing its conditionally drawn lessons on contemporary thought and action.

A question to ponder is: "Do fictional beings and beings in the real worlds reside, as they are, at different levels?" The answer to the question would take too many pages, so if it interests you; I suggest you read Johannes Schmitt's Fictional Hierarchies and Modal Theories of Fiction.

Stepping away from the Western Literary World of the "Theory of Fiction", one must respect the works of Ming Dong Gu, an Associate Professor of Chinese Comparative Literature and Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Texas.

Ming Dong Gu delivers a deeply rooted work with original insights and provocative arguments throughout his work in The Chinese Theories of Fiction published in 2006 by Suny Press. Ming's theories challenge certain accepted views of Chinese fiction and takes a fresh approach in relation to European and world fictions.

Chinese author, Martin W. Huang, believes that many of the arguments that Ming presents are thought provoking, compelling the free thinker to rethink many issues in Chinese Literature, especially the generic nature of Chinese fiction.

In conclusion, the "Theory of Fiction" is very subjective and one should research and read in length before forming an opinion.

Now, go softly into the night. mgf

Comments always welcome
Email: Michael, Behind the Fiction

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