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Marie-Laure Ryan

Subject Communication and Media Studies » Communication Studies
Media Studies » Media Production and Content

Key-Topics fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Fiction is intuitively understood and widely used, both in the public at large and among specialists of literary theory, to refer to a representation not committed to the truth. Yet, the concept is as difficult to define technically as it is easy to recognize. Unlike lies, fiction is not deceptive, and unlike honest error, it is not mistaken (→  Fantasy–Reality Distinction ). The specification of the concept of fiction involves at least three questions. First, what are its relations to narrativity, a concept with which it is easily confused, as the tendency to equate “fiction” with “narrative fiction” demonstrates? Second, how can it be described in pragmatic terms, i.e., as a use of signs? Third, is it a concept specific to language, or can it be extended to other media? Fiction is commonly taken to mean “narrative fiction” (→  Storytelling and Narration ). The overwhelming majority of fictions are, indeed, narratives, but not all narratives are fictional (e.g., news or biographies), and fictional texts do not always tell stories, as postmodern novels have demonstrated. The narrativity of a text or message is a semantic issue, i.e., a matter of content, and the audience can decide whether or not the text tells a story by simply decoding its meaning. Fictionality, by contrast, is a pragmatic issue, i.e., not a matter of what the text is about, but a matter of how it is used in social ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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