Make Believe

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University

Mario Slugan

The Status of Deixis in Fiction Film and Literature

Recently, a lot of attention has been paid to the question of the existence of controlling fictional narrators in literary fiction (Carroll 2006, 2008; Gaut 2004; Kania 2005; Köppe and Stühring 2011; Levinson 1996; Wilson 2006). In direct disagreement with Gregory Currie’s Narratives and Narrators (2010) I proposed the linguistic version of the ontological-gap argument for near-ubiquity of the implicit fictional narrators in literary fiction (Slugan 2010) emphasizing the importance of the ontological relationship established by deixis of any narrative tense used in fictional recounting. My argument has revolved around the Genettian assumption that deixis in literary fiction is intra-ontological i.e. that deictic reference cannot cross ontological boundaries between fiction and actuality. Here, I aim to address the question whether that assumption holds more generally. As my argument deals with both fiction film and literary fiction I examine two practices.

First, I look at 2nd person narratives and discuss the ontological status of ‘you’. Although intra-ontological property generally fails to hold for ‘you’ I conclude this does not do damage to my argument, for even the so-called 2nd person narratives are effectively uttered from 1st person and ground the narrator in the manner similar to transparent narratives.

Second, prompted by ordinary language statements such as ‘Here is X’ where X stands for a fictional entity, I discuss film historical practices and agents often referred to as narrators (e.g. lecturers, benshies). I investigate whether such statements are shorthand for ‘Here is a representation of X’ retaining the intra-ontological property, whether they truly cross the ontological boundary, or whether they position the utterer in the fictional world. In other words I investigate how the fictional truth of such statements relates to the claims that agents uttering them are fictional narrators.

About Mario Slugan:

MA/PhD Student, Slavic Department of Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago. My work has been concentrated on the question of voice in literary and film fiction and it is imagined as a dialogue between the views that controlling fictional narrators are ubiquitous and analytical approaches that claim the opposite. The work has resulted in conference presentations and two papers one of which (accepted for publication in Croatian Film Cronicle) provides criticism of enunciation theories of film narration (Nash, Jost, Gaudreault) and the other (“An Asymmetry of Implicit Fictional Narrators in Literature and Film,” Postgraduate Journal of Aesthetics, 7(2), 2010) contributes to the discussion of narrators in analytic philosophy.