The Experientiality of Narrative // Interdisciplinary Seminar on Narrative

After spending the last two months debating the contribution of philosophers to narrative studies, we now moved to a milestone of state-of-the-art narrative theory, The Experientiality of Narrative by Marco Caracciolo.

We debated Chapter 5, “Fictional Consciousnesses: From Attribution to Enactment,” and our attention has been drawn by the role of the so called “triggers of consciousness-enactment” in the audience–text relationship.

More generally, we’ve been led to interpret Strawson’s claims in the light of Caracciolo’s theory of consciousness enactment: namely, Strawson’s episodic memory can be seen as a case of consciousness-enactment of the past Self, which doesn’t explicitly imply a process of consciousness-attribution.

Regarding the activation of the audience’s experiential background, an interesting remark is that the “similarity or consonance between our story-driven experience and the experience that we attribute to the character,” it isn’t exclusively due to what denoted by the text, but it can also be tied to a process of exemplification, as explained by Nelson Goodman in Languages of Art.

With respect to the “triggers of consciousness-enactment”, we noticed how the context strongly affects the effectiveness of such triggers. For instance:

  • literary genres and conventions: in a narrative of a clinical case, mentioning the full name of the patient can reduce the level of abstraction of the situation and facilitate consciousness-enactment;
  • plot: in the novel Blindness by Saramago, since almost all population suffer of the same condition, the absence of the charachters’ names can facilitate consciousness-enactment; a low level granular sentence like “I saw a river on a bridge” can be strongly experiential if placed as an isolated comment after a prison-break scene;

My final personal comment is that Caracciolo’s theory of experientiality is an example of how we can conceive of narrative as a complex system.

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