Fictional and Factual Narratives in Antiquity

“Fictional and Factual Narratives in Antiquity”
Funded by the Excellence Strategy of Heidelberg University (“Expanding Internationality” project).
Principal Coordinator: Dr. Chrysanthos S. Chrysanthou (University of Heidelberg)
Partner Universities: University of Alberta; University of Amsterdam; University of Cyprus; University of Ghent; University of Leiden
Participating Scholars:
1. Prof. Jonas Grethlein (Heidelberg)
2. Prof. Koen De Temmerman (Ghent)
3. Prof. Casper de Jonge (Leiden)
4. Prof. Adam Kemezis (Alberta)
5. Dr. Margot Neger (Cyprus)
6. Dr. Luuk Huitink (Amsterdam)
7. Dr. Eva Marie Noller (Heidelberg)
8. Dr. Kathrin Winter (Heidelberg)
9. Dr. Chrysanthos S. Chrysanthou (Heidelberg)
Project Description:
One of the ongoing research domains of narrative studies today concerns the relationship between fictional and factual narratives. These are generally considered as a pair of opposites based on several criteria: (a) semantic (while fictional narrative does not need to refer to an extratextual reality, factual narrative is referential); (b) syntactic (fictional and factual narratives are different on the basis of their logico-linguistic syntax); and (c) pragmatic (factual narrative promotes claims of referential truthfulness, while fictional narrative makes no such claims). In literature, as in real-life situations, consideration of the dichotomy between fictional and factual narratives is inevitable. We tend to think, for example, that certain actions, stories, and discourses have ‘truth claims’, namely that they are serious and refer to some reality, while others are ‘untruth’, and accordingly ‘less serious’ and ‘unreal’.
Even so, a bipolar opposition between fact and fiction has met resistance from literary critics, anthropologists, and poststructuralist philosophers who recognized the difficulty in getting a clear picture of the distinction between the two. Not only the ontological status and truth-value of an account are dependent upon socio-cultural specifics and contextual relations between the author and the reader; but, it is also the case that, in literature, fictional narratives often include historical information or ‘real-life’ settings (e.g. Paris in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables), while fictional actions and characteristics may be assigned to historical persons (cf. counterfactual histories and novels). Indeed, as Hayden White (1978) emphatically puts it, history writing inevitably merges with fictionality from the moment it is presented as narrative. This kind of hybridization blurs any kind of clear-cut dichotomy between fact and fiction and complicates our understanding of what fictional or factual narrative precisely is.
This project focuses on ancient Greek and Latin narratives, and seeks to examine how and to what extent the borderline between fictional and factual narratives in antiquity is blurred.
It has three specific objectives:
1) To examine whether there are any specific narrative, linguistic, and stylistic features by which we may distinguish, on the one hand, the mode that is appropriate to fictional narrative and, on the other hand, the mode which characterizes factual narrative in antiquity.
2) To examine any similarities or differences in the presence and function of such fundamental parameters of narrative as ‘narrator/author’, ‘character’, ‘focalization’, ‘space’, ‘time’, and ‘mind’ in both fictional and factual texts.
3) To examine the presence and function of fictional elements in factual narratives, and vice versa, together with their narrative and (wherever appropriate) pragmatic contexts of use.
The findings of the project will enhance our understanding of:
(1) The status and literary texture of fictional and factual narratives in antiquity.
(2) The interconnections between narrative technique, factuality and fictionality.
(3) The concepts of ‘truth’, ‘authentication’, ‘fiction(ality)’, ‘factual(ity)’, and ‘narrative’ both synchronically and diachronically.
The project will thus contribute from a historical perspective to current theoretical and narrative studies of the much-vexed question of how to conceptualize fictionality and factuality in narrative texts by developing a poetics of fictional and factual narration in antiquity.
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Letzte Änderung: 02.07.2020
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