Reference and ‘About’

Peter Lamarque and Stein Haugom Olsen

in Truth, Fiction, and Literature

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780198236818
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679377 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy

Reference and ‘About’

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This chapter examines different kinds of referential or quasi-referential relations compatible with fiction (fictive utterance, the fictive stance). While acknowledging that such referential relations do obtain, thereby rejecting non-reference and anti-reference views, the chapter resists the stronger claim that reference is somehow indispensable to literary fiction or is an indicator of literary value. A modest pro-reference position does nothing to support traditional conceptions of ‘literary truth’. Of far greater significance for literary fiction than reference is ‘aboutness’. To speak of what a work is about is not equivalent to speaking of its references. The discussion of ‘aboutness’ in the literary context shows that what a work is about not only helps to determine its value but is connected with its very status as a work of literature.

Keywords: referential relations; fiction; fictive utterance; fictive stance; literary truth; aboutness

Chapter.  12059 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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