Reality of the Unreal: The Use of Contradiction in Postmodern Fiction Exploring the Creative Potential of the Human Mind

in Explorations of Consciousness in Contemporary Fiction
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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.

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