HC421H: Fictionality and Authenticity

Professor: Martin Klebes

4.00 credits

  • CRN 21092: Monday & Wednesday, 1200-1350 @ CHA 301

This colloquium undertakes an inquiry into the concepts of fictionality and authenticity and their representation across a range of disciplines. While recent cultural currents in digital media and politics have worryingly brought the 'fake' to global awareness, the status of fictional objects has long been the object of philosophical debate. How to classify something like a unicorn, the properties of which are specific enough to admit of a range of artistic depictions and verbal descriptions, and yet unicorns do not exist in the same way that a member of a biological species does? And what, in modern times, is to be considered more "authentic": a masterful forgery of a heretofore unknown work by a Dutch master, or an artwork of the same vintage that openly challenges the very notion of authenticity that such a forgery relies upon? One of the key quandaries for us to examine in this colloquium is the fact that merely because we might object to certain abuses of fake-ness in the present does not mean that a sphere of authenticity and fact, untouched by ontological and epistemological effects of fictionality, is necessarily accessible.

To this end we will trace relevant phenomena in fields including literature, philosophy, narratology, art history, and media studies. The literary material will include shorter stories by Heinrich von Kleist and Jorge Luis Borges, and Daniel Kehlmann's novel F (2013). We will discuss Orson Welles' last film (F for Fake, 1973), and also read narratological texts on fictionality, literary-theoretical texts on fiction and autobiography, and philosophical texts on the ontology of fictional objects. Material from art history (forgery studies and the art market) and media studies (fakes and viral transmission in social media; deep fakes) may also be part of the syllabus. I will invite creative projects as a possible alternative to more traditional papers when it comes to your own work in relation to this colloquium.