Why and how would somebody use references to non-real events, persons or places in order to try to change opinions on how real lives are lived? By talking about imaginative discourse not as confined to certain genres but as a possible quality of any type of serious communication, the concept of fictionality invites new ways of thinking about the status of the non-real both in and beyond the realms of generic fiction.
This talk takes up the latter challenge by bringing the concept of fictionality into dialogue with the field of rhetorical criticism, a field mainly interested in public discourse. Rhetorical criticism have for different reasons omitted or avoided the task of adequately conceptualizing the forms and functions of the imagined in the discourses it studies, such as political rhetoric and public deliberation. Focusing on current cases from politics and NGO campaigning (developmental aid, disaster relief), the talk argues that the concept of fictionality offers new and more accurate ways of understanding the rhetorical functions of the non-real in texts deeply committed to changing the real.
Stefan Iversen is Associate Professor in the Department for Aesthetics and Communication at Aarhus University in Denmark. He has co-edited the anthologies Why Study Literature? (Aarhus University Press, 2011) and Strange Voices in Narrative Fiction (De Gruyter, 2011) and is the author and co-author of articles and books on subjects such as unnatural narratives, early modernism, narrative rhetoric, and the literature of testimony. With Henrik Skov Nielsen he edits the series “Modern Literary Theory”, and he also hosts and leads the Ph.D. summer school course in Narrative Studies (www.sins.au.dk) held annually in Denmark. His current research project focuses on interacting narratives and on fictionality in public rhetoric.