Catharine Abell (Manchester): The Interpretation of Fiction

Catharine Abell (Manchester): The Interpretation of Fiction

18th March 2016 - 4:00 pm, Edinburgh


There are two views of the nature of fictive utterances in the existing literature. According to Searle and others, fictive utterances involve the overt pretense of performing ordinary illocutionary acts, such as assertions. According to Currie, Stock and Davies, they consist in a distinctive kind of illocutionary act, characterised by a communicative intention to elicit imaginings in an audience. I argue against both these views on epistemological grounds. Neither, I argue, is able to explain the fact that readers are, by and large, able to identify the contents of authors’ fictive utterances because both views are unable to accommodate the role of context in interpretation. I defend an alternative view according to which fictive utterances are declarations, illocutionary acts which are distinctive in effecting changes to the status of their objects simply in virtue of their successful performance. I argue that it follows from this view that we should be anti-intentionalists about the contents of fictive utterances. Although authors may competently and intentionally exploit them, conventions, rather than authors’ intentions, determine the contents of the utterances by which works of fiction are produced.

Additional information

The lecture will be followed by a dinner with our speaker. There are limited funds to cover dinner expenses for two students, offered on a first-come-first-served basis. If you would like to attend the dinner, please contact the organisers by Monday, 7th December.

Comments are closed.