Philosophy Colloquium
Alexey Aliyev
University of Maryland
What Instances of Novels Are

It is generally agreed that novels can be fully appreciated only through an experiential engagement with their well-formed instances. But what sort of entities can play the role of such instances? According to an orthodox view---accepted by Gregory Currie, David Davies, Stephen Davies, Nelson Goodman, Robert Howell, Peter Lamarque, Jerrold Levinson, Guy Rohrbaugh, Richard Wollheim, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, among others---the entities that play this role are primarily inscriptions---concrete sequences of symbol tokens, typically written/printed on something (say, paper, papyrus, or parchment) or displayed on the screen of some device (e.g., a computer or an e-reader). Thus, on this view, well-formed instances of, say, War and Peace include its original manuscript, printed copies (e.g., the copy lying on my table), and electronic text tokens (e.g., the text displayed on Anna's computer screen).

My goals in this paper are (a) to show that despite its popularity, the orthodox view is misguided and (b) provide an alternative. I begin, in Section 1, with a clarification of the expression "well-formed instance of an artwork." Next, in Section 2, I explain why inscriptions cannot be regarded as well-formed instances of novels. In particular, I argue that to be a well-formed instance of a novel, an inscription must be capable of manifesting certain sonic properties of this novel; however, no inscription can manifest such properties. Finally, in Section 3, I (a) draw a distinction between non-visual novels, or novels that do not contain any aesthetically relevant graphic elements, and visual novels, or novels that do contain such elements, and (b) argue that well-formed instances of non-visual novels are readings, whereas well-formed instances of visual novels are sums of readings and graphic elements.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
3:30pm

Taliaferro 1103