25 Chapters
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1. Changing Configurations in Theories of Fictive Representation

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

Charting a course through the waters of theoretical speculation on the nature and function of fictive representation from earliest times to the present requires one to tack and turn to avoid shifting sandbanks. The reason for this tortuous path is that, while almost everything that has been said about fiction has been around for some time, the ways in which different schools of thought inflect these insights vary greatly, depending on whatever intellectual and ideological currents are flowing most powerfully when a particular theory is formulated. In this chapter, I provide an overview of the evolving ways in which fictive representation has been conceived in theory throughout history.

Writing about 335 BC, Aristotle claimed that “poetry” (from Greek poiesis, or “making”–that is, a work of fictive invention) derives from mimēsis–an instinct toward representation that is “innate in human beings from childhood,” through which we learn and in which we gain pleasure.1 With respect to tragedy, which was the specific genre he was discussing, Aristotle believed that the function of the representation was to effect “through pity and fear the catharsis of such emotions.”2 Earlier, Simonides of Ceos (556–468 BC), according to Plutarch in his essay “De gloria Atheniensium” (c. AD 100), had made the claim that “painting [is] inarticulate poetry and poetry articulate painting.”3

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12. Tracking a Personal Myth through an Oeuvre: The Films of François Ozon

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

Just as a neuropsychoanalytic perspective can assist in analyzing the internal workings of an invented fiction, so too can an understanding of the brain’s procedures in the creation of stories, combined with a psychoanalytic understanding of the nature and function of fantasies, sensitize one to the presence of recurring metaphors and symbolic configurations of action across the span of an author’s works. Charles Mauron, in his book Des métaphores obsédantes au mythe personnel: Introduction à la psychocritique (1963), has labeled these recurring motifs a “personal myth,” outlining a “psychocritical” model for identifying its presence in an author’s work. Although Mauron’s theory has been largely overlooked in Anglo-American scholarship–with the notable exception of Linda Hutcheon1–it remains valuable, especially given that Mauron’s notion of how fictions are constituted is consistent with what we now know about the procedures of the human brain.

Mauron’s model depends on a theory of fantasy derived from Freud but modified in light of object-relations theory to account for the complexity and variety of fantasies in fictive representations without becoming reductive. Mauron agrees with Freud that “the earliest fantasies seem to constitute hallucinatory satisfactions of desire,” and that these fantasies construct our future psyche,2 but he also insists that fantasies play a decisive role in inhibiting and controlling impulses, as well as in expressing desires for repair, by facilitating “developmental creation, adaptation, restoration, dynamic representation of internal events, conflicts, and projected solutions.”3 In particular, fantasies are the means by which “the personality is able to achieve a discharge of repressed excitation and to master the experience of it” in response to the legacy of experiences that have left a traumatic imprint.4

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6. The Shaping of Fictive Scenarios by the Author: Motivations, Strategies, and Outcomes

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

The ways in which narratives are shaped has received much attention under the twin influences of structuralism and psychoanalysis. Narratologists have examined the semiotic formalization of actions that constitute a story (the effects of sequence: narrative tension, suspense, curiosity, and surprise), and the devices used to direct the reader/spectator’s attention during the telling (narrative perspective, focalization, voice, rhythm, and frequency) in literary fiction.1 Film theorists have done the same for cinematic representation, identifying the distinguishing features of film narrative (mise-en scène, framing, types and duration of shots, editing, and film sound).2 As well, psychoanalytic critics have examined literary and cinematic narrative through the lens of Freudian psychology, emphasizing the relationship between shaping motivations and temporal dynamics (the play of desire in time),3 or they have applied the theory of the unconscious posited by Jacques Lacan, positing an inferred similarity between the structures of a film and the structure of language.4

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4. The Materials of Fictive Invention

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

In chapters 1 and 2, I establish why fiction enacts more than merely a didactic or entertainment purpose, suggesting that it has a mind-altering function more complex than propositional logic alone can accomplish–that is, without emotional reactions having been processed into thought. I argue that fictive representation, motivated by the SEEKING system, activates areas in the right hemisphere of the brain to enable communication across, and integration between, the two hemispheres, which in turn allows material that would otherwise remain cognitively unrepresented in the unconscious mind to be brought into conscious awareness. This process itself, I suggest, depends on the “moving” power of emotions that arise from the basic affective systems with which evolution has equipped humans, along with all other mammals, as an adaptation designed to increase the chances of survival and enhance well-being.

I also argue that fictive representation accomplishes its tasks through the construction of fantasies that allow unacknowledged or disavowed affect, as well as affect consciously experienced as a result of environmental circumstances, to be processed psychologically. This is a precondition for the regulation of affective experience and hence the management of life itself. Before exploring in more detail how fantasies actually work in literary and cinematic fiction, it is necessary to examine some of the representational devices and strategies they comprise.

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10. Intersubjective Attunement, Filiation, and the Re-creative Process: Jules and Jim–from Henri-Pierre Roché to François Truffaut

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

My purpose in this chapter, following the theoretical exposition in chapter 9, is to show how the intersubjective attunement made possible by the combined operation of neurological and psychological processes involved in reception generates a response that is not merely passively receptive, but also actively re-creative. To a large extent, the processes involved are invisible and unconscious, but their presence can be detected through their outward signs: namely, in patterns of unconscious filiation that can be traced from one author to the next and in the evidence of imitation and reconstitution provided by the cinematic adaptation of literary works. Neuroscience has, as yet, been unable to track empirically the neurological ways in which these intersubjective/re-creative processes are effectuated at this stage in scientific research–the human brain is far too complex for that–but enough evidence exists, in forms that are accessible to critical and historical analysis, to enable scholars to make informed surmises.

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