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Perspectives in Imaginative Engagement with Fiction

Elisabeth Camp
Elisabeth Camp, Department of Philosophy, The University of Pennsylvania

Thursday, March 22nd 4:15 PM
Kohlberg 115, Swarthmore College

Since Plato, philosophers have puzzled about the imaginative power that fiction holds for us.  Why do we care so much about characters and events we know not to exist?  Why do we respond so differently to characters and events in fiction than we would in life: for instance, why do I laugh at the Three Stooges, or root for Scarlett to rebuild Tara rather than to emancipate her slaves?  And why do we sometimes resist imagining certain things — say, that a murder is justified, or a joke is funny — given that we're so often happy to play along in imagining what is obviously and outlandishly false?  I argue that to solve these puzzles, we need the notion of a "perspective" on a fictional world. Cultivating a perspective can be illuminating, entertaining, or corrupting — or all three at once.