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Make Believe

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University

Frank Zipfel

Fiction as make-believe in drama, theatre and opera

The notion of fiction as make-believe has been used in different theoretical frames. It has been integrated into theories of fiction based on authors’ intentions, into theories based on readers’ appreciations and also into theories based on a concept of fiction as institutional practice. But these different approaches mostly elaborate on fiction as make-believe with reference to narratives (understood in a narrow sense of a story being told by a narrator or a narrative instance). Thus since the 1990s there is an ongoing discussion about the understanding of make-believe with regard to literary narration and feature film. Comparatively little has been said about the specific fictionality of written drama and of theatre or opera performances. The fictionality of drama, theatre and opera has often been taken for granted or it has been explained in terms of narrative fiction. At closer inspection, however, it is not self-evident to apply explanations of fiction as make-believe that have been elaborated for literary or filmic narratives to drama, theatre and opera. The question arises whether and how theories of fiction based on narratives have to be adjusted or modified in order to grasp the specific fictional aspects of drama as a literary genre and of theatre and opera as specific art forms. In my paper I propose to discuss this question by elaborating on the genre and media specific differences between the institutional practices of fictional literature, theatre and film – though not without taking into account that there are also basic similarities between literary narratives, dramas, theatre performances and films. Moreover I want to investigate the consequences that are brought about by the differences between the theoretical frames in which the various understandings of make-believe have been elaborated when these concepts are modified in order to explain the fictionality of drama, theatre or opera.

About Frank Zipfel:

Akademischer Oberrat, Institut für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. Main research topics: theory of fiction, narratology, genre theory, European Drama, intercultural studies, Intermedia studies. Publications: Fiktion, Fiktivität, Fiktionalität. Analysen zur Fiktion in der Literatur und zum Fiktionsbegriff in der Literaturwissenschaft. Berlin 2001; Literatur@Internet, ed. together with Axel Dunker, Bielefeld 2006; Ecriture Migrante/Migrant Writing, ed. together with Danielle Dumontet, Hildesheim – Zürich – New York 2008; Tragikomödien. Kombinationsformen vom Tragik und Komik im europäischen Drama des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts (forthcoming). Articles on literary theory, German modern literature, literature and digital media, intercultural studies.