FYS 101 The Boundary Between Fiction & Reality

Fictional characters often seem more real and important to us than our own family and friends. We care about what happens to them, love or hate them, and can even get addicted to our interaction with them. But what are fictional characters? Do they exist as abstract objects or possible people? Or are they “just pretend”? In today’s society, questions of the nature of fictional characters and the distinction between truth and fiction have genuine importance, as we interpret and evaluate journalism, memoirs, “reality” TV and historical accounts. Does the boundary between fiction and reality matter, in our increasingly “virtual” world? Where does reality stop and fiction begin? More broadly, is reality is merely a fictional construct that we create through our subjective experience of it?

In this class, we will use a philosophical perspective to investigate several deep questions about the metaphysics of fiction and the boundary between fiction and reality, taking into consideration a variety of fictions: short stories, novels, theater, TV and video games. We will take field trips to an art museum, attend a theater performance and engage in an intimate conversation with a writer, to explore the creation and experience of characters across different art forms. We will also consider work across the disciplines, from theater and literature to journalism, political science and history.