The chapter concerns the contemporary novel’s exploration of the dual, real-fictional dimension of human life. It appears that by assigning to reality meanings and values, whether common and predictable or originally fanciful, people can effectively create themselves and their world. Sometimes, especially if they are fantasy-prone, they assign meanings and values to things that do not exist; also this activity can have very real consequences. In the novel this phenomenon may be signalled by means of contradiction – one and the same element of the text (an object, a character, a story) or even the text itself may be given by the narrator and/or the implied author the dual quasi-real and explicitly fictional status. If otherwise the text appears to keep the two spheres apart, the strategy may evoke in the reader a sense of cognitive dissonance: real and fictional are commonly taken as mutually exclusive. The paper focuses on “the reality of the unreal” in the presentation of two fictional characters: a cross-cultural child (Pigeon English, 2011, by Stephen Kelman) and a psychopath (Filth, 1998, by Irvine Welsh). The self might be unreal, should theories of Daniel Dennett and like-minded philosophers prove correct, but its fantasies for the self, if contemporary novels can be trusted, are real enough.
Explorations of Consciousness in Contemporary Fiction is a collection of essays examining the potential of the contemporary English-language novel to represent and inquire into various aspects of the human mind. Grounded in contemporary literary theory as well as consciousness studies, the essays consider both narrative techniques by means of which writers attempt to render various states of consciousness (such as multimodality in digital fiction or experimental typography in post-traumatic narratives), and novelistic interpretations of issues currently being investigated by neurobiologists, cognitive scientists and philosophers of the mind (such as the adaptive value of consciousness or the process of self-integration by means of self-narration). The volume thus offers critical reflection upon the novel’s cognitive accomplishment in this challenging area. Contributors are: Nathan D. Frank, Judit Friedrich, Justyna Galant, Marta Komsta, Péter Kristóf Makai, Ajitpaul Mangat, Grzegorz Maziarczyk, James McAdams, Daniel Panka, Barbara Puschmann-Nalenz, Joanna Klara Teske, Lloyd Issac Vayo, Dóra Vecsernyés, Sylwia Wilczewska