Abstract

It is sometimes said that fictional consciousnesses are represented in narrative texts. I aim to show why this kind of representationalism is fundamentally flawed. Drawing on the work of philosophers who, like Daniel D. Hutto, have advocated the “enactivist” approach to cognition, I argue that consciousness and subjective experience cannot be captured in representational terms; consciousness can either be had (in a first-person way) or attributed (in a third-person way). I suggest that we tend to adopt the same basic stance towards real people and fictional characters: we make a “consciousness-attribution” on the basis of external signs (such as gestures and language) thought to be expressive of consciousness. In some special cases, however, literature invites us to adopt another stance (which I call “consciousness-enactment”), whereby we enact (or perform) the experience that we, at the same time, attribute to a fictional character. In my article, I explore the consequences of these ideas on major narratological problems, such as the experientiality of narratives and focalization.

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