Stacie Friend: "Reference in Fiction"

Joint Seminar – The Higher Seminar in Aesthetics and in Theoretical Philosophy

Stacie Friend, Birkbeck College, University of London: "Reference in Fiction"

No one would deny that works of nonfiction refer to real individuals and events. If I read a biography of Napoleon, I take the work to refer to Napoleon. But many literary scholars and philosophers have claimed that reference either fails or is at best irrelevant in fiction, so that even when fictions are about the real world this “aboutness” is merely indirect. From this perspective, my imaginings in response to War and Peace cannot represent the real Napoleon, or at least not in the same way as the biography. I argue to the contrary that works of fiction often refer to real individuals, and in exactly the same way as nonfiction. I addressing a variety of objections to this proposal, developing an account of reference that applies to fiction and nonfiction alike. I further argue that reference matters to the appreciation of fictional literature.