Thursday, August 27, 2009

SA #1: "The Art of Fiction"

Note that the reading is on bspace under "Resources."

Briefly answer the questions below in complete sentences.

1. James writes,
It is still expected, though perhaps people are ashamed to say it, that a production which is after all only "make-believe" (for what else is a "story"?) shall be in some degree apologetic -- shall renounce the pretension of attempting really to represent life. (45)
Why, according to James, is it wrong to expect this?

2.Why, according to James, do Americans regard art with suspicion?

3.What is the distinction between the "novel" and the "romance," and why does James think this is a false distinction?


  1. It is wrong to expect that make-believe stories don't show an accurate example of real life because the authors write their stories based on their experiences in real life.

  2. 2. Americans regard art with suspicion because they think of it as some perfect creation that only certain people who were born with talent can do and so they don't know what to make of it. People would be suspicious about a novel being characterized as artistic because of the typical stereotype that art is only categorized in the professions of music, poetry, painting, and architecture.

  3. 3. The "novel" is like a story depicting reality through the experience of one individual person, with the freedom to write about anything in order to show some truth about human nature. The "romance" is a typical, structured story with clear characters and most likely a happy ending that is meant to please readers with its heroic adventures and juicy plot. But James thinks this is a false distinction because they are both stories that show a little reality and interest for readers. Instead, James just thinks that there are good novels and bad novels, just as there are good romances and bad romances.

  4. 1. James does not agree with the apology some writers of fiction feel inclined to include in their writing. He considers it, “…a terrible crime… (James 46).” He makes it clear that a writer who does this is not as concerned with searching for truth. The definition of the word truth, to James, is unlike what others may consider as the definition of the word. He regards truth as one’s life experiences. Though fictional writing may not be true in the literal sense, such as having physical evidence to support something, to some of its readers, it is nonetheless genuine to the author, as that is what he or she experienced and how he or she interpreted life’s events. Thus, James finds it wrong to expect an apology from an author of fiction because he does see a need to apologize. An author may state that his or her novel is forged and did not take place. Such a statement is the apology that James is speaking of. To James, the novel is comprised of truth because that is what the author experiences and how the author portrays what goes on around him or her.

  5. 2. Art, like fiction, is not an actual, physical portrayal of life and its events. It is a mere representation. An artist does his best to paint what he experiences. The danger that Americans see in this is that what their eyes perceive on the canvas may not actually be real, or true. As a result, they feel reluctant to accept what they see depicted on a canvas as they might not understand or agree with the perspective of the artist.

  6. 3. The distinction between the two is that a novel tells the story of an event while a romance tells the story of a character. James believes this to be a false distinction, as he does not see the difference between the two. Both tell stories and are comprised of events and characters. He sees the distinction as a separation made by critics in order to help make their lives easier. Fiction by any other name is still fiction. A story is still being told no matter what title one may give it.


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