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The Normative Relations between Fiction, Imagination, and Appreciation

English title The Normative Relations between Fiction, Imagination, and Appreciation
Applicant Kindt Tom
Number 166619
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Departement für Germanistik Universität Freiburg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.01.2017 - 31.12.2019
Approved amount 467'242.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Philosophy
German and English languages and literature

Keywords (7)

normativity; imagination; aesthetic appreciation; fiction; literature; aesthetic value; argumentation

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Das Forschungsprojekt dient der systematischen Untersuchung der normativen Beziehungen zwischen Fiktion, Imagination und ästhetischer Wertschätzung.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziele

Die Beziehungen zwischen Fiktion, Imagination und ästhetischer Wertschätzung sind normativer Art: Fiktionale Texte fordern uns auf, uns spezifische Ereignisse vorzustellen, und unser ästhetisches Urteil über sie wird nicht zuletzt dadurch bestimmt, welche Imaginationen sie uns in welcher Weise vorschreiben. Auch wenn einige Aspekte der fraglichen Beziehungen in der Forschung bereits untersucht worden sind, so fehlt es doch bislang an einer umfassenden Klärung der normativen Dimension der Beziehungen zwischen Fiktion, Imagination und Wertschätzung. Das Forschungsprojekt strebt eine solche Klärung an. Es ist in drei Teilprojekte untergliedert, die sich der Normativität der untersuchten Beziehungen aus unterschiedlichen Perspektiven nähern: Während das erste Teilprojekt der empirischen Frage nachgeht, welche spezifischen Regeln die Interpretationspraxis de facto anleiten, widmet sich das zweite dem normativen Problem, an welchen Normen sich Interpretationen orientieren sollten; das dritte schliesslich untersucht die basale Frage, worin die normative Autorität von Fiktionen für Imaginationen begründet ist.  

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Von dem Forschungsprojekt sind Impulse für Theorie und Praxis der Literaturwissenschaft zu erwarten; es verspricht dazu beizutragen, die Kluft zwischen der Interpretation fiktionaler Literatur in wissenschaftlichen und in alltäglichen Zusammenhängen zu verringern und unser Verständnis davon zu vertiefen, was literarische Fiktionen für uns wertvoll macht. Der wesentliche Beitrag des Projekts zur philosophischen Diskussion wird in der systematischen Erhellung der zwar weithin anerkannten, aber nur sehr unzureichend verstandenen Normativität der Beziehung zwischen Fiktion und Imagination bestehen. Indem das Forschungsprojekt untersucht, warum fiktionale Texte normative Autorität über unsere Vorstellungen besitzen, wird es die bestehenden Debatten zum Themenfeld weiterführen und erweitern.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 15.01.2017

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
The project aims to provide a systematic investigation of the normative relations between fiction, imagination and appreciation.
Lay summary

Content and objectives

The relations between fiction, imagination and appreciation are normative in nature: Fictional texts direct our imaginings and we, at least in part, aesthetically appreciate them because of what and how they prompt us to imagine. Although some aspects of the relations in question have already been discussed in the literature, there has so far been no comprehensive account of the normative role of imagining and its normative connections to fiction and appreciation. The research project intends to give such an account. It is divided into three subprojects that approach the normative relations between fiction, imagination and appreciation from three complementary angles: Whereas the first subproject studies the factual issue of which specific norms are de facto in play in interpretative practices, the second asks the normative question of which specific norms should be followed, while the third addresses the foundational issue of where these norms derive their authority from.

Scientific and societal context

The research project promises to have an impact on both theoretical and practical aspects of literary studies, to bridge the gap between literary studies as an academic discipline and reading novels as conducted by the ‘layman’ and to further our understanding of what makes literary fictions valuable to us. The main contribution to the philosophical literature on fiction and imagination is that it illuminates the normativity of an important relation that is often taken for granted but not well understood. By discussing where the normative authority of fictional texts over our imaginings could derive from, the project is supposed to open a new field of discussion that supplements the existing debates on the relation between fiction and imagination.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 15.01.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
139004 The Normative Mind 01.01.2013 SNSF Professorships
170586 The Normativity of Aesthetic Judgements 01.01.2017 SNSF Professorships

Abstract

It is a commonplace that fictional texts invite and move us to imagine certain things concerning the characters and events described by the text. Reading The Sound and the Fury prompts us to imagine various incidents in the history of the Compson family. It is equally undeniable that considerations about what fictional texts ask us to imagine are central to our aesthetic appreciation of them. We value Faulkner’s novel in part because it allows us to imagine these incidents from the very complex, diverse and subjective points of view of the three Compson brothers. What these two truisms about the relationship between fiction, imagination and appreciation have in common is that they describe normative relations. Imagining is the appropriate basic response to fictional texts. If we fail to imagine in accordance with the text’s prescriptions to imagine, we fail to properly engage with it. Similarly, appreciation is the appropriate response to the power of fictional texts to captivate our imagination in rich and rewarding ways. Much of the aesthetic worth of fictional texts resides in the fact that they make specific fictional worlds accessible to our imagination. Hence, the aesthetic evaluation of fictional texts requires us to take into account what they ask us to imagine, and how they do this. The aim of the research project is to investigate the nature of these two normative relations between fiction, imagination and appreciation, which may be characterized in the following way: (NR1) fictional texts direct us to imagine certain things; (NR2) that fictional texts direct us to imagine certain things bears on whether we should aesthetically (dis)value them. With respect to each fictional text, there are specific instances of (NR1) and (NR2) which tell us what to imagine when reading the text, and also how to aesthetically assess it in light of what it asks us to imagine. Although important aspects of (NR1) and (NR2) have already been discussed in the literature, many others have not. Thus there has so far been no systematic investigation of the normative role of imagining and its normative connections to fiction and appreciation - something that this research projects aims to remedy. The neglected issues that we intend to address can be divided into factual, normative and foundational questions. The first subproject inquires into how specific instances of (NR1) and (NR2) are actually established in the practice of interpretation in literary studies, while the second subproject elucidates particular instances of (NR1) and (NR2) that should (or should not) guide our interpretation. The third subproject aims to identify the source of the normativity of the justified instances of (NR1) and (NR2). Together the three subprojects aim at providing a comprehensive account of the general normative relations between fiction, imagination and appreciation.
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