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Broken estate essays on literature and belief

I wondered this while comfortably reading the Introduction to this book, an essay called "The Freedom of Not Quite". Wood argues that the "old estate" died in the middle of the nineteenth century. This is how he defines it: If fiction is fabricated by man, then it doesn't necessarily follow that we should believe it. Wood suggests that the old estate started to break down when these two positions began broken estate essays on literature and belief soften and merge.

The Gospels started to be read as fiction, and fiction became an almost religious activity. Wood believes that the ascent of science and the rise of the novel helped to kill off the divinity of Jesus. If the Gospels were fiction, then Jesus couldn't be the Son of God. At the same time: He differentiates between narratives in terms of orders of truth. A narrative appears to be a communication between an express or implied author and a reader.

There seem to be three orders of truth. Firstly, according to Wood, the Christian Gospels were originally supposed to be supernatural narratives that were communicated to man by God. They were therefore supposed to be incontrovertible truth. The role of the reader was to believe, to become a believer. It's arguable that history might fit in this category as well. Lastly, Wood argues that fiction represents another order of truth in the way it represents what he describes as "the real".

How We Read Fiction Wood explains what he means about fiction in terms of how we readers respond to it. He believes that we "register the reality" of what we read in fiction.

  • You are not currently authenticated;
  • He locates the distinction between literature and belief within literature itself—within the novels he discusses—relying upon it the way earlier critics relied upon the distinction between imagination and fancy, or the sublime and the beautiful;
  • Make Believe The normal and traditional mechanism of fiction avoids absolute belief;
  • Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, Philip Roth.

We sympathise, identify, and empathise with characters. An exchange or sharing of identities between the reader and the characters occurs. Wood argues that "just enough" suffices as real. The reader interprets the fiction "as if" it was real. In a way, the reader's imagination fills in the gaps necessary to make the fiction real, to make it the truth, at least for them.

Some writers can achieve this outcome with highly distilled prose he uses the drama of Beckett as his example.

Questions?

Perhaps, the reader's imagination just has to work a little harder in these cases. Others dilute their prose with detail. Our imagination doesn't have to work as hard. Thus, Wood asserts, truth can be found in a book, even if it is badly written. Not Quite Real The author asks of the reader a "doubleness", during which two things occur in the reader's mind: Wood adopts Roland Barthes' stance that conventional fictional realism has lured us into forgetting its doubleness.

We overlook and repress the extent to which it is "not quite real", the extent to which it is an effect or artifice. Realist fiction has succeeded in passing itself off as a conduit of reality and, therefore, of truth. We have started to believe fiction wholly or absolutely. We have forgotten that authors are liars or "artificers of the real". Make Believe The normal and traditional mechanism of fiction avoids absolute belief: Our belief is itself metaphorical - it only resembles actual belief, and is therefore never wholly belief.

Thomas Mann writes that fiction is always a matter of 'not quite'. In contrast, religious belief asks us to believe in God as the absolute truth. There is no "as if". Religious belief is never "not quite belief" at least internally within the particular religion. However, it's this differentiation that Wood believes has blurred.

  • Does he mourn the days when fiction was "not quite real, "not quite" the truth?
  • If so, how do we return to those days or practices?
  • Our belief is itself metaphorical - it only resembles actual belief, and is therefore never wholly belief;;;
  • We don't expect fiction to be the truth, although it might confront the reader with truths;
  • But fiction and belief are more than antithetical modes of cultural authority for Wood.

Suspended Disbelief Wood seems to underestimate our willingness to suspend disbelief, at least temporarily, during the game or play of fiction. We broken estate essays on literature and belief fiction with a belief it's not real, but we can overcome this belief, partly or wholly, as we become familiar with and comfortable in the world the author has created. To the extent that film is a fiction, as soon as the lights go down, we are invited to suspend disbelief.

We can do so, because we are in a different physical environment. When the film is over, we can return to "reality". What we experience during the film is make believe ironically, because film is visual, it's much easier to mistake it for real. Perhaps, the punctuation of the opening and closing moments is more obvious in relation to a film, although we can always punctuate a book, as Wood acknowledges, by closing it, going outside and kicking a stone.

Do we ever really forget that a novel is not real? At some point, we will always walk away from the object we're holding in our hands, and return to external reality. Belief in the Gospel Truth Equally, does the perceived fiction of the Gospels impact on the underlying belief in God? Would anybody cease to believe in a Christian God, if their belief in the Gospels was undermined?

I would have thought the questioning of the Gospels would be more of a threshold issue: More importantly, you have to ask whether this whole literal truth of the Gospels issue only arise in relation to Christianity because of the significance of the Gospels to the religion.

What is its relevance to fiction and culture in non-Christian societies?

Additional Information

Narrative Generalisation Yet, Wood builds his argument into a generalisation about narrative: Narrative corrugates belief, puts bends and twists in it.

At best, you could say that narrative can be located on a continuum, and that the reality or reliability of a particular narrative is determined by the order of truth we accord to the category of narrative i.

Outside the adherents to a religion, we don't expect a supernatural narrative dictated by a deity to be the truth, even if it might contain sensible moral guidance.

  • However, my greatest reservation is that Wood seems to be limiting the subject-matter of fiction to a form of realism that sets out the "inwardness [of the] human case";
  • Wood seems to limit the scope of fiction to realism, or at least to pour scorn on fantasy;
  • In a way, the reader's imagination fills in the gaps necessary to make the fiction real, to make it the truth, at least for them;
  • Other chapters are more obliquely related to the subject of his title;
  • We overlook and repress the extent to which it is "not quite real", the extent to which it is an effect or artifice.

We expect scientific and historical truth to be reliable, but we have come to recognise that its truth is malleable. We don't expect fiction to be the truth, although it might confront the reader with truths.

  1. In a way, the reader's imagination fills in the gaps necessary to make the fiction real, to make it the truth, at least for them.
  2. One often wonders what Wood's take would be on writers absent from these pages, Anthony Trollope, say, or Leo Tolstoy, William Gaddis or David Foster Wallace, who seem temperamentally matched to his concerns. Do we ever really forget that a novel is not real?
  3. There is no "as if".
  4. Neither a programmatic study nor a grab bag of occasional work, these 21 pieces give a compelling account of modern fiction that is as conscientious as it is idiosyncratic, adducing a gallery of personal heroes Herman Melville, Nikolay Gogol, Anton Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, W. We sympathise, identify, and empathise with characters.
  5. Wood believes that the ascent of science and the rise of the novel helped to kill off the divinity of Jesus. You are not currently authenticated.

Picking Apart the Fictitious Theology of "The Bone Clocks" If we take religion out of the equation for the moment, what is left of Wood's argument with respect to fiction? Does he mourn the days when fiction was "not quite real, "not quite" the truth? If so, how do we return to those days or practices? The title of the Introduction implies that "not quite" affords a level of freedom mind you, when the essay was first published, its name was "The Limits of Not Quite".

When you read Wood's review of David Mitchell's "The Bone Clocks", you have to ask what is left of the perceived freedom: Wood seems to limit the scope of fiction to realism, or at least to pour scorn on fantasy. Alternatively, like many readers, he is perplexed by the juxtaposition of the two: Gradually, the reader begins to understand that the realism - the human activity - is relatively unimportant; it is the fantastical intergovernmental war that really matters.

Whatever the stakes are, the reader decides, they are not really decided in the sublunary realm. The fantasy rigs the narrative, so that there is something wearingly formulaic whenever Mitchell stages, as he regularly does, a spot of 'realistic' scepticism. The 'human case' refuses to be preordained. The history of the novel can, in fact, be seen as a secular triumph over providential theology: Wood comes out with all of his canons firing. You have to wonder why he bothered. What in this novel prompted such an inflated and grotesque analysis?

It's as if Hitler diverted the whole of the Nazi war effort to exterminating Biggles. At a basic level, Wood seems to have misunderstood or misrepresented the plot of Mitchell's novel. No human is manoeuvred, except by coercion that could equally have been applied by another human i. The so-called "decoding" occurs primarily in one chapter, the main fault of which is that it is a bit of an information dump as often occurs in the last chapter of genre fiction.

The only other interaction between human and supernatural is for the humans to be passive carriers of the supernaturals or souls between generations. As for the human case, we see Holly grow through six phases of life in a manner that is detailed enough to stand alone without the supernatural plot.

However, my greatest reservation is that Wood seems to be limiting the subject-matter of fiction to a form of realism that sets out the "inwardness [of the] human case". Within the world of the imagination, I don't see broken estate essays on literature and belief an author can't write about any subject matter they like, whether realism or fantasy, whether human or superhuman, whether inward or outward, whether serious or comic.

You'd think this would be a natural consequence of Wood's argument that fiction is an activity within the "as if" realm of make believe. Realism is not a prerequisite of fiction. However, he seems to head in the opposite direction. Coleridge on the Suspension of Disbelief Coleridge is credited with coining the term "suspension of disbelief" in relation to a creative project he joined in with Wordsworth: It was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.

Wordsworth on the other hand was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us.

It's ironic that the term was first used to justify the use of supernatural themes in poetry and fiction at a time when they had ceased to be fashionable.