Insofar as literary theory has addressed the issue of literature as a means of communication and the function of literary fiction, opinions have been sharply divided, indicating that the elementary foundations of literary theory and criticism still need clarifying. Many of the "classical" problems that literary theory has been grappling with from Aristotle to our time are still waiting for a satisfactory solution.
Based on a new cognitive model of literature as communication, Farner systematically explains how literary fiction works, providing new solutions to a wide range of literary issues, like intention, function, evaluation, delimitation of the literary work as such, fictionality, suspense, and the roles of author and narrator, along with such narratological problems as voice, point of view and duration.
Covering a wide range of literary issues central to literary theory, offering new theories while also summarising the field as it stands, Literary Fiction will be a valuable guide and resource for students and scholars of the theory of literature.
Geir Farner is Professor of Dutch Language and Literature in the Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages (ILOS) at the University of Oslo, Norway.
1. Introduction 2. What is literary fiction? Attempts to define literary fiction Intratextual criteria Extratextual criteria The embedding of real elements in fiction A reader-oriented definition of literary fiction Fiction with reservations How to distinguish between fact and fiction? Should the author of documentary fiction cite his sources? The embedding of extratextual facts: conclusion The embedding of fictitious elements in non-fiction Narrative and fiction 3. The fictional communication process The question of genre The levels of the communication process Early theories of levels Narratological theories of levels The material text The mental model of the action The relationship between the mental model and the action The cognitive content Identification Popular literature The cognitive content: terminological alternatives The truth of the message The incompleteness of the mental model The transparency of the mental model The two aspects of the mental model Why the term mental model? One drawback of the terms signifier, signified and referent Drama Literary fiction as a speech mode Possible worlds What comes first, text or action? 4. The cognitive and the aesthetic dimension Definition of the aesthetic The aesthetic dimension in art Does fiction have an aesthetic dimension? Does the text have an aesthetic function? Does the action have an aesthetic function? Does the mental model have an aesthetic function? Does the cognitive content have an aesthetic function? Does the interplay between the levels have an aesthetic function? Must fiction have an aesthetic dimension in order to be art? The cognitive function and consciousness Evidence of the cognitive function 5. The delimitation of the literary work The text and the mental model of the action The message Drama and lyric poetry Ambiguous texts Reading in another order and repeated readings The simultaneity of the levels Other theories 6. Intention and message The message as perceived by the receiver Different forms of communication The many faces of the author The message as perceived by the sender Does the work always reflect the author's own views? The relationship between the latent and the received message To what extent is information about the author's intention available? The expectations of the reader The author's responsibility for the received message Conclusion Interpretive strategies 7. Problems related to the sender The narrator and the narrative act Kate Hamburger's theory The nature of the narrator The role of the receiver Attachment 8. The structure of the action The mental model and the action What is the action? The action as part of a larger fictional world Problems with the definition of story The author's influence on the action The complexity of the action The relationship between events and characters Action-orientation and character-orientation as forms of selection Attempts at simplification The smallest meaningful elements of the action How are these basic elements related to Propp's and Greimas's models? The characters' mode of existence Flat and round characters The action as vehicle for the message Setting 9 Selection Theories about duration Selection Time and its content Quantitative selection Scene, summary, ellipsis, pause and stretch The problem pause 10. Voice Temporal relations Identity and level Terminological problems The significance of the author's choice of grammatical person The report of speech and thoughts Interference of the narrator Comments of the narrator Humour as a manifestation of voice Irony Other kinds of indirect communication 11 Viewpoint, focalization Viewpoint or focalization? Viewpoint in non-fiction, film and drama Viewpoint in the novel and the short story Omniscience and perception Position: internal and external viewpoint Depth Breadth Stability Rewriting in the first person The point of view in the first-person novel The narrator's viewpoint: double focalization? Is there always a viewpoint (or focalization)? Ambiguous viewpoint Viewpoint and voice Zero focalization? Internal viewpoint and subjectivity Viewpoint and identification Conclusion 12 Frequency 13 Order 14. Suspense What is suspense? Various forms of suspense Suspense in Effi Briest Artificial suspense 15. The functions of literary fiction Didactic literature and simplification Result- and process-orientation Non-cognitive functions 16. Evaluation To what extent is evaluation inevitable? How subjective is evaluation? Which aspects of the work are subject to evaluation? Evaluation criteria for the cognitive content Truth Importance Relevance Novelty and difference Entertainment Evaluation criteria for form alone and form and content as a whole Wholeness Complexity and simplicity Openness Criteria related to phatic function Professional competence Criteria linked to time Criteria linked to language Extratextual factors Who is entitled to evaluate? Conclusion 17. Conclusion Bibliography Index