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The Crossing of Fiction and Imagination: On Wolfgang Iser’s View of Literary Fiction

  In the 1990s, Wolfgang Iser, the representative of reception aesthetics, turned from the theory of reception aesthetics to the study of literary anthropology. He attempts to answer two age-old questions about literature by accepting the legacy of aesthetics: what is literature? Why are we obsessed with reading? In response to these two themes, Iser focused on the idea of ​​”the value of fiction in literature.” He inherited the idea of ​​reception aesthetics, interprets literary fiction from a dynamic and dialectical process, and summed up the relationship between fiction and reality as “cross-border” and the “three-in-one” of reality, fiction and imagination. In the grand anthropological background, he placed the duality of literary fiction in parallel with a certain anthropological “role theory”, and regarded literary fiction as a way of existence of self-presentation, transcendence and reflection.
  1. The essence of fiction: the “three-in-one” of reality, fiction and imagination
  Iser believes that in the past, people tried to define the nature of “fiction”, and this mode of thinking was deeply influenced by the concept of subject-object opposition, which led to the long-standing binary opposition between “fiction” and “reality”. Concept, “fiction” becomes an appendage of “reality”. Francis Bacon succumbed to the scientific nature of experiments, and regarded scientific fiction as an illusion that hindered the discovery of truth; Jeremiah Bentham, from the perspective of utilitarian ethics, regarded fiction as a design based on human subjective needs; Hans. Feinger’s view of scientific fiction emphasizes that fiction is a product of the organic function of the mind and a high-intensity satisfaction for the purpose of thinking; Nelson Goodman’s view of artistic fiction refers to “the world is composed of multiple The world is composed of” or “the world has multiple translations”, the real world and the fictional world are various interpretations of the world, which together constitute our cognition of the world. It can be seen from this that fictions in philosophical discourse take on different forms due to the specific needs of historical status and the cognitive state of the subject, or illusions, modalities (modes), transcendental explorations, and samples that constitute the world. They all point to the demand for fictional activities in specific situations, presenting a changing picture of philosophical discourse from fictional falsity to efficacy. Therefore, it is obviously not acceptable for traditional concepts to regard “reality” and “fiction” as diametrically opposed. If fiction can be reduced to a given imitation and reflection of reality, how can one explain literature’s imagining of the non-existent? Iser advocates that the textual basis of literary fictionalization should be the “three-in-one” of fiction, reality and imagination, and replaces the deep-rooted concept of binary opposition between fiction and reality. The essence of fiction is a “border crossing”. His view of literary fiction can be briefly summarized as the following three relationships:
  First, the relationship between fiction and reality. In literary texts, there will be legal situations in which reality is “invalidated” and reality is “produced” again. Therefore, the fictionalization of literature is at best a “symbolic truth”.
  The second is the relationship between fiction and imagination. Fictionalization is a mode of operation of consciousness, and fiction has intentionality. Fiction is a “gestalt” that requires imagination to construct. More importantly, fiction is very different from imagination.
  Imagination is not clearly defined. “According to ordinary experience, the imagination often presents itself in a diffuse form, it grasps objects in an ever-changing manner. Generally speaking, the imagination has no specific fixed form. The specter of the imagination, like a willful ghost, is often seen in our It flashes before the eyes, sometimes it disappears without a trace, sometimes it quietly transforms into another face.”
  The difference between fiction and imagination is that “we cannot equate the act of imagining with imagining, because imagining is an act that is guided and controlled by the subject, and it gives imagining a clear gestalt, which This gestalt is different from madness, conjecture, daydreaming, and all kinds of whimsy that arise from everyday life” ([de]Wolfgang Iser, Fiction and Imagination: The Frontiers of Literary Anthropology”).
  Again, it is the relationship between fiction and reality and imagination. The double structure of literary fictionalization is reflected in this.
  ”First, the reality recreated by fictionalized behavior points to reality but can transcend reality itself; second, the boundless imagination is lured into a certain form. In both cases, there is a transgression phenomenon: the reality fence is Fiction is demolished, and the wild horse of the imagination is enclosed in the fence of form, so that the truth of the text contains an imaginary color, and the imagination in turn contains an element of the real.” ([de]Wolfgang Isser) The dual structure of literary fictionalization
  is that it can not only transcend reality (transcendence of reality), but also grasp imagination (transform into gestalt). Guided by the act of fiction, fiction recodes reality, giving it new meaning, liberating pressure and calling for the advent of imagination. The intervention of fictionalization makes fiction, reality and imagination perform their respective functions and penetrate each other, presenting a strange and ever-changing literary field. This is the difference between literary fiction and everyday fiction.
  2. The Function of Fiction: The Mutual Penetration
  of Selection, Fusion, and Self-Explaining As for how to realize the “three-in-one” behavior of literary fictionalization, Iser believes that fiction is accomplished through the three functions of selection, fusion, and self-explanation. The basic feature of this function is still the crossing of frontiers.
  (1) Choice
  Choice as a function of fictionalizing behavior is intentional. The author’s intervention into reality does not follow a mediocre imitation and representation. The author’s introduction of the authenticity of the text must be accompanied by the author’s subjective tendency, emotional attitude, ideology and so on. Through the selection function, the material in the old context has a new meaning through the introduction of the text, the established relationship of the material in the old context is broken, and a new connection is established in the new text, which itself has a dynamic “Boundary Crossing”. In the process of “crossing the border”, the old factors are thus transformed into a reference domain, which is always open and remains open. The factors that are selected into the text can be used as a reference, and the eliminated factors can also be used in the process of “choice”. The process is rearranged into the text. The “choice” function crosses the boundaries of the text’s related systems and the text itself by referring to the field of reference.
  Therefore, the relationship between textual truth and objective truth lies in the fact that “the truth of the text is obtained at the expense of the truth of the empirical world. Those selected elements of the empirical world, after being appropriated by the text, actually no longer have The kind of objectivity that is an integral part of the original system” ([de]Wolfgang Iser, Fiction and Imagination-Literary Anthropological Frontiers”).
  (2) Fusion As one of the functions of fictionalized behavior,
  selection behavior has an important complementary way, that is, fusion. If choice is an intentional activity of fictionalizing, the elements that enter the text through “choice” may present an incongruent, dissonant situation. Iser thus introduced the “fusion” function. The fusion function enables various artificial and abrupt factors to be resolved and become “reasonable and reasonable”, and has the effect of “making a strong class into a class” and “turning the impossible into possible”. Its basic feature is also to realize the “crossover” between reality and fiction. Iser believes that the full realization of the fusion function benefits from “the referential function of language is transformed into a ‘descriptive function’ by the ‘related program'”. Literary language goes beyond cognitive to descriptive. It has the similarity of the reference, but it is not equal to the reference. Literary language enables the “fusion” function in the act of fictionalization.

  Therefore, the meaning of the fusion function is that “fusion, as an act of fictionalizing, gives imagination a special form based on established relations. This imaginary form eschews direct statement, and at the same time it cannot be stated in the form of language, Because language tends to have its own specific orientation, of course, fusion can also make things specific and morphological, and respond accordingly to the existing reality” ([de] Wolfgang Iser, Fiction and Imagination—Literature Anthropological Frontiers).
  (3) Self-explanation The
  fictitious “self-explanation” function has far-reaching and extensive significance. It refers to the fact that the authenticity of fictional texts does not equal the authenticity of objective reality, which is a consensus, the psychology of what people call “believe it”. Fictional texts provide a more possible solution or environment for the development of real things, and reality is more universal under the action of fictional texts. Iser believes that fictional texts contain a large number of traces of familiar reality, which is the basis for our understanding of the meaning of texts and the basis for the construction of meanings in fictional texts. However, these “recognizable realities” are “camouflaged” in the text, showing a plausible authenticity, they are not existing things, but can be understood as existing things. At this time, our “authentic attitude” to investigate the authenticity of these realities is “suspended”, and the change of attitude allows us to unload the burden and freely fly in the illusory world created by the text. Therefore, in the world related to the text, we have reason to question its authenticity, while in the literary text, the truth is “suspended”, presenting a false truth, which provides the conditions for the fictional transgression and the rush of imagination. Freed up space.
  3. The Paradigm of Literary Fiction—The Pastoral Style of the Western Renaissance
  In his book “The Meaning of the End—A Theory of Fiction”, Kermode uses the concept of “paradigm-variant” to describe “fiction” and “reality” as a set of opposing and interpenetrating discourses in works of art. The phenomenon of organic unity, and call it “the fiction of harmony”. Inspired by Kermode, Iser presents the pastoral works of the Western Renaissance as a classic representation of literary fictionalization. Kermode believes that people are accustomed to using a self-understanding causal logic narrative method to give meaning to the historical process between the unsearched beginning (birth) and the unpredictable end (death) of human beings, thereby constructing a A harmonious relationship, which is a paradigm of fulfillment. The process of the paradigm contains the adventurous and transitional periods of various crisis activities, which will be continuously modified due to the pressure of reality, thus forming a cultural phenomenon of “paradigm-variant”. Works of fiction imply our understanding of specific historical realities. Paradigms correspond to human psychological or physical “propensities” for disease, approaching a state of absolute simplicity, which corresponds to a basic human need to produce meaning and provide comfort. And the treatment of paradigms in fictional works (variants) illustrates a certain continual nature of human beings to seek eternity.
  Iser accepts Kermode’s view of “harmonious fiction” and believes that man cannot pursue the beginning of the past, nor can he predict the ending of the future, so he can only constantly perform a “repetition” between the beginning and the end. It embodies the diversity of human development and drives people to create a steady stream of fictional works that mimic the unknown realm between the beginning and the end of life, while these fictional works also reflect people’s ever-expanding ways of being and endless possibilities. Iser focused his research on the pastoral style of the Renaissance. As a permanent type of literary fiction, it always changes its cultural connotation with changes in the environment. It is the unique structure of pastoral poetry that derives The history of poets, humanists, etc. using the qualities of fiction and imagination to process and transform the idyllic style. The ancient idyllic style presents a sense of infinite proliferation and complexity. Therefore, idyll must satisfy “a basic human need” and can reveal the original thesis of “what fiction means for us as human beings”. As a paradigm, idyllic poetry comes from the historical ideological system on the one hand (the opposition between ideal and reality), and on the other hand, it comes from the reflection of historical problems in the literature left over from the past (the idyllic style as a utopia reflects the changes in the ideal picture of human beings). As a convention, idyllic style makes readers face the social-historical environment of familiar conventions with fresh eyes, or recreates the social-historical environment needed by conventions. It can be said that fictional literature has not only become a way for people to communicate with reality, but also an extension and extension of reality. In this respect, fictional literature is not an imitation of established reality, but contains deeper human nature.
  Theocristo is the founder of Western idyll. His pastoral collection presents the labor, singing, entertainment, competition, love, and pain of the shepherds to the eyes of future generations, and has become the prototype of the pastoral style. In the pastoral style of the ancient Roman poet Virgil, the relationship between the pastoral world and the referential reality is more complex and changeable. Virgil’s pastoral world is no longer the quiet, peaceful, harmonious and free-spirited rural society described by Thes, but as an idyllic art form alluding to profound social implications. The turmoil of the times and the country’s wild interest, as two tensions torn from each other, penetrate and blend into the pastoral world, and point to a more complex spiritual world in the reader’s reading experience. The early work of the English Renaissance poet laureate Edmund Spencer, The Shepherd’s Calendar, inherited the long pastoral tradition of western pastoral literature, but it was naturally integrated into the humanistic ideals of the Renaissance. Pastoral poetry evolved gradually during the Renaissance, and pastoral romance was a transformation of pastoral poetry. Different from the complex reference between the pastoral world of pastoral poetry and the socio-historical world, Pastoral Romance engraves the social-historical world into the pastoral world, which Iser believes is a “crossover between symbols”. The first is that the fictional pastoral world “obtains its meaning by exerting its mirror function”, that is, the pastoral world obtains its referential meaning by mirroring the real world, and literary fiction contains real characters; The second is that the socio-historical world is “refracted by the reflected images”, that is, the real world “sees itself” in the images created by the pastoral world, thus producing a “mirror-like identity” and potentially changing. In other words, neither the fictional pastoral world nor the social real world can fully realize their intended meanings, and only when a connection is established between these two worlds can the transgression between fiction and reality be possible. Pastoral Romance offers a vivid picture of a literary fiction placed neither in the socio-historical world nor in the world of art, both worlds being transcended within each. In Sanacharo’s Arcadia, Iser argues that the poet “disguised” or “acted” himself as a shepherd, leaving his birthplace of Aples for Arcadia, Virginia Asia. The fictional pastoral world is the place where the sentimental poet rests, and it is also the extension and expansion of another parallel time and space of the social real world. On the other hand, even if the poet disguised as a shepherd engraves the characteristics of the real world into the pastoral world, the pain can only be comforted for a short time, but the poet still runs to Arcadia without hesitation, that is, he continues to construct the ideal fiction. utopian world. Sidney’s “New Arcadia” is a pastoral romance work with far-reaching influence during the English Renaissance. Although “New Arcadia” is a fictional pastoral prose work, it contains rich realistic implication. The pastoral world alludes to the crises and vicissitudes of the real world, and shows the poetic and romantic pastoral ideal of the ruling class.
  Philosophical Anthropology Helmuth Presner put forward a theory of “dual roles”, we play different roles in different places of life and social norms, and the setting of roles allows us to have unique roles on the one hand On the other hand, they can have a common social ethic. In different role transitions, we maintain the mutual adjustment and continuous transcendence between self and others, individual and collective, inner and outer, which means that people have historical openness and variability in roles. Iser believes that the relationship between literary fiction and “performance” lies in: on the one hand, “performance” makes human beings detached from the barriers of reality, become the diversity of others and me, and enter the imaginary world of fantasy (detachment); on the other hand , “Performance” provides a field where people can observe the transformation of the relationship between self and others (inside), so as to better understand and balance the demands of self and the external world. As a typical example of literary and fictional art, the utopian pastoral world, people are in it, like a dream, they can cross the strict guardrail of reality, so that the hidden things will emerge, and the contradictory things will be presented harmoniously, reaching the most authentic human nature. inner demands. The fictional anthropological situation is disguise and performance. Both the author and the reader seem to wear masks to travel through various environments, realizing the various possibilities of human beings. Humans can be both inside and outside. Here, the pastoral world is related to the duality and even the multiplicity of human beings, and the anthropological perspective sets up a bridge here. Fiction and imagination are its constant driving force.
  Literary fiction is not a given reflection of reality, but an “communication” with reality. In the concentrated analysis of the concept of literary fiction, literature realizes the behavior of fiction through the functions of selection, fusion and self-explanation, so as to achieve “cross-border”. While role theory reveals the dual attributes of human beings, literary fiction enables human beings to transcend and reflect on themselves. Iser’s view of literary fiction is not only a realistic deepening of the theory of reception aesthetics, but also a portrayal of the interdisciplinary interaction between literature and anthropological achievements, which shows that literary fiction is the eternal pursuit of human beings to construct, regulate and stabilize a structure with universal meaning. . These insights are all enlightening.

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