This symposium takes the contested and porous border between fact and fiction as the point of departure for a wide-ranging cross-disciplinary dialogue. Understanding fiction not as a literary genre but as an operative category in various modes, disciplines, and discourses, we aim to identify the general features that define imaginary worlds, while also considering the historical and cultural variability of practices, the specificity of media, and the blurring of distinctions. Why and how do we create fictions, and what kinds of truths can these fictions convey? Should fiction be defined in ontological, logical, or pragmatic terms? How do human minds distinguish between factual and fictional narratives, actual and virtual realities? Can we identify “signposts” of fictionality and factuality? Bringing together perspectives from the humanities, social sciences, cognitive sciences, and art practice, we offer an exploratory approach to these questions, with an emphasis on collective discussion.
This conference is free and open to the public. While no advance reading is required, primary source documents and other related materials will be made available in advance on the conference website, and are intended to facilitate understanding and debate.
This event is organized by the Fact and Fiction research project at the Neubauer Collegium. Other institutional partners include the France Chicago Center, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Committee on Social Thought, and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
Friday, May 19
Opening Remarks: Alison James (University of Chicago)
Worlds and Representations
Moderator: Bei Qiu (SISU/University of Chicago)
Thomas Pavel (University of Chicago):“Fictional Worlds, Thirty Years Later”
Andrei Pop (University of Chicago): “From Make-Believe to Platonism”
11:15 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Moderator: Alison James (University of Chicago)
Anna Abraham (Leeds Beckett University, UK): “How the Brain Tells Reality from Fiction: A Neurocognitive Perspective”
Françoise Lavocat (Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3/Neubauer Visiting Fellow, University of Chicago): “Do Signposts of Factuality Exist? The Puzzling Case of Literary Hoaxes”
Modes and Transformations of Fictionality
Moderator: Daisy Delogu (University of Chicago)
Julie Orlemanski (University of Chicago): “Medieval Fictionality”
Alison James (University of Chicago): “From Human Documents to Fiction as Alibi: Modes of Reference in the French Novel”
Maria Anna Mariani (University of Chicago): “Primo Levi’s Evil Wet Nurse and the Sin of Fiction”
Saturday, May 20
9:00 – 10:45 a.m.
Cinematic Facts and Visual Absorption
Moderator: Jennifer Wild (University of Chicago)
James Cahill (University of Toronto): “Big Toes and Other Beasts”
Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky (University of Chicago): “The Process Genre, or On Being Absorbed in Work”
11:00 a.m.–12:45 p.m.
Moderator: Joel Snyder (University of Chicago)
Christian Raby (Photographer): “When Photography Constructs Identity”
Paola Iovene (University of Chicago): “Collective Reportage in 1930s China”
2:00 – 3:45 p.m.
Moderator: Edgar Garcia (University of Chicago)
Victoria Saramago (University of Chicago): “The Backlands in the Mirror: Environmental Mimesis in João Guimarães Rosa’s Work”
Françoise Lavocat (Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 /Neubauer Visiting Fellow, University of Chicago) and Meredith Reiches (University of Massachusetts Boston): “A Comparative Demography of Characters”
Play, Performance, Participation
Moderator: Julianne Grasso (University of Chicago)
Patrick Jagoda (University of Chicago): “Alternate Reality Games and Political Fictions in the Era of Fake News.”
Olivier Caïra (Université d’Évry/EHESS): “Interactivity: The Final Frontier between Fact and Fiction?”
Closing Discussion and Reception