Pretending and Meaning: Toward a Pragmatic Theory of Fictional Discourse

Overview

Since Plato, Western critics of literature have asked how it is possible for fiction writers to mean something serious. The outrage over Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, highlighted our continued uneasiness over distinctions between fact and fiction, novel and history, truth and falsehood. The blasphemy charged against Rushdie raises important questions: Did Rushdie mean The Satanic Verses, or didn't he? When he publicly recanted, what did he mean? What do...

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Overview

Since Plato, Western critics of literature have asked how it is possible for fiction writers to mean something serious. The outrage over Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, highlighted our continued uneasiness over distinctions between fact and fiction, novel and history, truth and falsehood. The blasphemy charged against Rushdie raises important questions: Did Rushdie mean The Satanic Verses, or didn't he? When he publicly recanted, what did he mean? What do we even mean by mean?

This is the starting point for Richard Henry's fascinating investigation of the pragmatic foundations of fictional discourse. Drawing from Paul Grice's interrogation of meaning and implicature, Henry offers a systematic correlation between what it is to pretend and what it is to mean, how the two concepts inform each other, and how it is possible to mean seriously and sincerely by purportedly pretended acts. Pretending and Meaning: Toward a Pragmatic Theory of Fictional Discourse draws upon Paul Grice's interrogation of meaning and implicature to offer a systematic correlation between what it is to pretend and what it is to mean, how the two concepts inform each other, and how it is possible to mean seriously and sincerely by purportedly pretended acts.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Introduces pretending as a critical concept informed by but not reducible to theories of imitation, behavior, intentionality, and sincerity. Henry traces its genealogy, identifies its distinguishing features, shows how it functions in ordinary discourse, and lays a groundwork for applying it to longer stretches of narrative. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

RICHARD HENRY earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Fiction and Pretending 1
2 The Meaning of Pretend: Etymological Estimations 31
3 The Meaning of Pretend: Philosophical Determinations 43
4 Meaning and Pretending 55
5 Pretending to Mean 81
6 Pretending and the Pragmatics of Fictional Discourse 105
Bibliography 111
Index 123
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