Where am I in the story? Reflections on the reader's location and the encounter with fictive people

Abstract

Phenomenological analysis of the bodiliness of human existence establishes a sense in which human consciousness is prereflectively spatial and located at a particular place, and at the same time a sense in which consciousness detaches itself from its location by reflecting on it and itself. This paper probes a parallel aspect of that self which the reader becomes upon reading and entering the world of three selected fictive narratives: this “reading self,” as it will be called, replicates the structure of real-world consciousness, for the reading self is both located at a specifiable place within each of the three fictive worlds and at the same time floats free of that location without leaving the narrative's world. Although the paper does not claim that the reading consciousness always or necessarily replicates real-world consciousness, it suggests that such replication, when it happens, is significantly related to the reading self's encounter with the fictive characters as both selves and others. To say that the latter are self-transcending selves is to say that the reading self may identify itself with them and move into the story's world; such identification does in fact take place. To say that at the same time the characters remain other selves is to say that the reading self, floating free within the story's world, also experiences a distance between itself and them. Yet this otherness does not turn the fictive characters into objects; that is, their otherness does not imply that they are merely objects to be explained in terms of social or biological forces nor that they are the products of an author's manipulations. Much of the paper is occupied with working out the interaction between the reading self's locatedness and non-locatedness, on the one hand, and the fictive characters' selftranscendence and otherness on the other.

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Greene, D.B. Where am I in the story? Reflections on the reader's location and the encounter with fictive people. Man and World 22, 163–183 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01256644

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Keywords

  • Political Philosophy
  • Specifiable Place
  • Human Existence
  • Phenomenological Analysis
  • Human Consciousness