Serious questions for Serious Literature


I’m pretty sure that madwomen+ road trips + Armageddon + self vs.nature = me. In its archetypes and generational themes, literature has taught us a lot about ourselves, but often this is evidenced by the reactions that it elicits rather than what it provides as fact. That’s generally been okay though, since literature and its conclusions were rather happily isolated from science for a long time. But it’s 2011. What now?

On this note, University of Nottingham philosophy professor Gregory Currie takes a stab at wtf literature actually IS, now that cognitive psychology has apparently shuffled in with some snarky empiricism to take the reins in the Revealing Our Inner Selves department. He takes some time to bat around the term ‘Serious Fiction,’ noting that if its seriousness is meant to be seen in light of its revealing of truth, 2011 could ask us to apply the laws of thermodynamics to Paradise Lost. And that might not work.

But, not being a hater, Currie sees this seriousness as an ‘exercise in pretence’ (Brit spelling), and serious authors of fiction as expert builders of worlds with variables dropped in and out for us to draw conclusions on the truth and humanity inside. Safely, without having to question the efficacy of our choice of learning strategy. Yay English Major.

Emmy Komada is a translator and assistant editor at Two Lines Press, part of the Center for the Art of Translation. She likes languages, and reading, and trying to read in various languages. More from this author →