OpenFiction [Blog]

A popular page

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on February 23, 2006

Hard to say why, but page seven of the Realism section of tOFP courseware has been a popular page this month, with 229 views so far. It’s always been a favorite of mine, so I hope it’s not just a machine glitch:

The project of metafiction is more than just a subject of idle writerly fascination however, and it is so because of the second part of our definition of realism: a technique of fiction that presents a story as if it has some “natural” or objective relationship to reality. You’ll often hear people talk about fiction and the insight it provides into “human experience,” or how stories are a “slice of life.” These phrases would seem to indicate that there is a direct correspondence of realty to fiction and vice versa. Even the name realism would seem to indicate this as well.

I’ve leaned on Seymour Chatman’s work in many places throughout the course material, and he is a self-proclaimed structuralist, which is about as politically neutral a field of criticism as you’ll find out there, and even he acknowledges in many places throughout Story and Discourse that realism does not refer to the real world, but to the current socially accepted interpretations of the real world. His interests do not compel him to trace out the implications of this observation, but I believe it is ethically important for any practicing writer to understand the importance of this.

Because fiction relies on–in some cases reinforces, and in other cases disrupts–the current socially accepted understanding of what is “real,” it is a potent political tool. Fiction can effect tremendous social change, and because it also conceals its operation and the role of the author in shaping the work, it can do so without those it affects even being aware of the process. Conversely, it can reinforce damaging social understandings–stereotypes–without the reader and in some cases the author being aware.

Speaking of metrics, I owe the blog nearly three months of tOFP by the numbers, which I hope to get to soon.

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