Rowman and Littlefield International

The Opacity of Narrative

By Peter Lamarque

11 Reviews

What is narrative? What is distinctive about the great literary narratives? In virtue of what is a narrative fictional or non-fictional? In this important new book Peter Lamarque, one of the leading philosophers of literature at work today, explores these and related questions to bring new clarity and insight to debates about narrative in philosophy, critical theory, and narratology.

Hardback ISBN: 9781783480166 Release date: Apr 2014
£85.00 €119.00 $132.00
Paperback ISBN: 9781783480173 Release date: Mar 2014
£29.95 €41.95 $44.00
Ebook ISBN: 9781783480180 Release date: Mar 2014
£27.95 €39.95 $41.50

Pages: 230


What is narrative? What is distinctive about the great literary narratives? In virtue of what is a narrative fictional or non-fictional? In this important new book Peter Lamarque, one of the leading philosophers of literature at work today, explores these and related questions to bring new clarity and insight to debates about narrative in philosophy, critical theory, and narratology.

He highlights 'opacity' as a feature of literary narratives and examines the implications for our understanding of fictional worlds and fictional characters. Throughout he challenges received views about narrative, questioning the indispensability of narrative in an individual's self-conception and the importance of both truth and emotion as measures of literary greatness. He reflects on the 'non-fiction' novel arguing that it does not weaken the distinction between fiction and no-fiction.

The book offers a compelling and original account of these and other issues, making a critical contribution to topical and wide-ranging debates.

Preface / 1. Opacity, Fiction and Narratives of the Self / 2. Narrative and Invention / 3. On Not Expecting Too Much From Narrative / 4. Literary Narratives and Real-Life Narratives / 5. Fiction and the Non-Fiction Novel / 6. Wittgenstein, Literature, and the Idea of a Practice / 7. Literature and Truth / 8. Thought, Opacity and the Values of Literature / 9. Aesthetics and Literature / 10. On Keeping Psychology Out of Literary Criticism / Bibliography / Index

Peter Lamarque is professor of philosophy at the University of York, UK. His many publications include Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art (OUP, 2010), The Philosophy of Literature (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), Fictional Points of View (Cornell University Press, 1996), and Truth, Fiction and Literature: A Philosophical Perspective (with Stein Haugom Olsen, Clarendon Press, 1994). He was Editor of the British Journal of Aesthetics from 1995 to 2008.

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11 Reviews

In this book, Peter Lamarque brings his distinctive views about fiction and literature to the related but different topic of narrative. Narratives, especially but not only literary ones, are not windows through which we look at the actual or possible worlds, but opaque constructions we must look into to discover not just what is represented but the way it is represented. Taking this basic idea and applying it to both longstanding and recent controversies about the nature and value of narratives of many kinds, Lamarque reaches enlightening, new conclusions about these topics. This is essential reading for anyone interested in narrative.

Robert Stecker, Professor of Philosophy, Central Michigan University

The Opacity of Narrative is a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in narrative. Smart, provocative, and urbane, it is Peter Lamarque at his philosophical best.

John Gibson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Louisville

With characteristic acuity, incisiveness, and analytical precision Peter Lamarque shows how what we see in literature is importantly unlike what we see through photography, and he offers a full investigation of the various roles narrative does, and -- equally important -- does not, play in literary experience. Working in concert, this powerful set of essays takes the next major step in understanding the often unobvious relations between narrative, art, and life.

Garry Hagberg, James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics, Bard College

Incisively argued and elegantly written, this book provides a compelling and distinctive philosophy of literature from one of the foremost philosophers of art today. Lamarque advances a refreshing skepticism toward many commonly accepted views about narrative and its relation to literature, including whether truth and emotional responses are as important to the value of literature as often claimed. Adapting the concept of opacity from philosophy of language, he endorses the view that the content of the work, its characters and events, are constituted by their modes of presentation. Vivid examples illustrate how, in reading literature, we look at it rather than through it to fictional worlds.

Susan Feagin, Research Professor, Temple University and former editor of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

This welcome volume collects together eight of Peter Lamarque’s published papers on narrative as well as adding two that have not been previously published. They re-express, clarify, and in some places supplement the view expressed in the book he co-wrote with Olsen (1994) .... Having the essays together, as well as being a great convenience, brings out some of the depth and complexity of Lamarque’s account .... The laudatory claims on the back cover get it right; this is an important book which is essential reading for anyone working in the area—whether that means in the current narrow debate on literature and narrative or in the debate on narrative more generally.

Derek Matravers, Professor of Philosophy, The Open University

The central idea of opacity both illuminates some of Lamarque's earlier work and builds on it. Lamarque is, arguably, the leading figure in philosophy of literature, and this book will undoubtedly have a major influence on philosophical discussions for many years to come. It is filled with careful and well-laid out literary examples and subtle arguments, and it continually manifests a curious and wide-ranging intelligence.

The ten essays of this volume address a myriad of interlocking themes in the philosophy of literature, among them: distinguishing fiction from nonfiction, the sources of literary value, truth in fiction, affective response, and narrative models of personal identity. [T]aken together [Lamarque’s theoretical interventions] offer a highly rewarding theoretical framework for understanding and evaluating literary narratives: a framework Lamarque calls opacity … One of the many merits of this book, a volume that anyone interested in the philosophy of literature must contend with, is a strong defense of a conception of literary fiction in which its distinctive values and experiences are made plain.

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 73 Issue 3

Despite the difficulties that the idea of opacity brings with it, [this book] labels a persuasive account of what makes literary narratives special. On this view, literary narratives have distinct, inherent values independently of any actual reader’s reaction to them. In order to benefit from the valuable literariness of these narratives, the reader has to attune him- or herself and assume the proper literary attitude that these texts demand. As a book built around this main tenet, The Opacity of Narrative is an invaluable collection for anyone interested in how to think about narratives.

British Journal of Aesthetics

Lamarque not only outlines the most important recent debates in the area of aesthetics and philosophy of literature — his reasoning is also conclusive, cogent and ingenious with respect to any topic he brings into focus. Thorough reading of this excellent and elegantly written book will be profitable and enriching for anyone, no matter whether one is already familiar with Lamarque’s thinking or not.

Mind: A Quarterly Review of Philosophy

The Opacity of Narrative sets out with admirable lucidity the questions and queries and the tricky issues in the fields of epistemology, philosophy and aesthetics that arise when narrative loses any claim to transparency.

Irish Left Review

Most readers will never step back to question the supposed merit of an imaginative exploration of the psyche; Lamarque, however, does just this, referencing thinkers as varied as Daniel Dennett and Alasdair MacIntyre, to set up his own claims concerning life narratives, claims that challenge rather than affirm their presumed goodness.

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