The fictionality debate and the complex texts of Richard Powers and William T. Vollmann
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Neophilologus: an international journal devoted to modern and mediaeval language and literature, including general linguistics, literary theory and comparative literature. - Groningen
, p. 177-192
University of Antwerp
Narratological discussions about the distinction between fiction and nonfiction predominantly focus on an opposition between narrative pragmatics and narrative semantics. The former position holds that fictionality depends on the authors intention to present the text as fiction or nonfiction, whereas the latter implies that readers assign texts to one of these two categories depending on text-immanent features. This essay suggests that crossings of the border between fiction and nonfiction are the result of both author intention and reader reception. By considering recent theories on the relation between authors and readers, I submit that the distinction between real-life author and fictional narrator is not always clear-cut. The narrative discourse in the novels by Richard Powers, for example, can at times be taken for real-world discourse. Similarly, William T. Vollmanns nonfictional work Imperial continuously suggests that facts are informed by the fictions we tell ourselves. The distinction between nonfiction and fiction arguably no longer functions as a global interpretative frame for these texts, which can be read at times as fiction, at times as nonfiction.