Pretending and Meaning: Toward a Pragmatic Theory of Fictional Discourse

 
 

Since Plato, Western critics of literature have asked how it is possible for fiction writers to mean something serious. The outrage over Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, highlighted our continued uneasiness over distinctions between fact and fiction, novel and history, truth and falsehood. The blasphemy charged against Rushdie raises important questions: Did Rushdie mean The Satanic Verses, or didn't he? When he publicly recanted, what did he mean? What do we even mean by "mean"?

This is the starting point for Richard Henry's fascinating investigation of the pragmatic foundations of fictional discourse. Drawing from Paul

Grice's interrogation of meaning and implicature, Henry offers a systematic correlation between what it is to pretend and what it is to mean, how the two concepts inform each other, and how it is possible to mean seriously and sincerely by purportedly pretended acts. Pretending and Meaning: Toward a Pragmatic Theory of Fictional Discourse draws upon Paul Grice's interrogation of meaning and implicature to offer a systematic correlation between what it is to pretend and what it is to mean, how the two concepts inform each other, and how it is possible to mean seriously and sincerely by purportedly pretended acts. 

 

 Contributions in Philosophy, vol. 57. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.

Contributions in Philosophy, vol. 57. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.