Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Aesthetics for Distant Birds, Workshop #4: Program, “Fiction and Criticism”



Aesthetics for Distant Birds:
An Online Workshop Series
Fourth Meeting – “Fiction and Criticism”

Co-organizers: Aaron Meskin, Jonathan Neufeld, Thi Nguyen, and Alex King (that’s me)

Thanks to everyone who submitted! We had a bunch of great submissions – and just because a paper hasn’t been selected for this round doesn’t mean that you won’t be selected for the next. The “theme” for the fourth workshop is “Fiction and Criticism.”

It will take place at 1:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time on August 17, i.e., next Monday.


As a reminder, each session will consist of a (strict) 10-minute presentation and a (strict) 10-minute Q&A.

1:00 pm – start

1:05 pm – “Criticizing Misrepresentations in Fiction and Non-Fiction”
Stacie Friend (Birkbeck, University of London)

Abstract: According to the Genre Theory of Fiction (Friend 2012), there are no essential features distinguishing fiction from non-fiction; in particular, there is no necessary connection between non-fiction and accuracy or the invitation to believe. A frequent criticism of the theory is that it undermines the justification for criticizing works of non-fiction that play fast and loose with the facts. I defend the Genre Theory from this objection, arguing that it misidentifies the justification for criticizing misrepresentations in non-fiction (as well as fiction).

1:25 pm – “Counterfactual Reasoning in Art Criticism”
Angela Sun (University of Michigan)

Abstract: When we evaluate artworks, we often consider hypothetical variations of those works in order to make judgments of the works as they actually are. We might, for instance, say of Kara Walker’s enormous sugar sphinx A Subtlety, “The effect of the sculpture would completely change if it were made out of clay, plaster, or even some other edible substance like chocolate.” Call this counterfactual reasoning in art criticism. I argue that counterfactual claims about artworks involve a special kind of comparative judgment between actual and hypothetical works of art. I show why counterfactual reasoning in art criticism puts pressure on the acquaintance principle, as it involves aesthetic judgments about hypothetical artworks one has not actually perceived.

1:45 pm – “Freedom, Perception, and Possibility in Mrs Dalloway
Jonathan Gingerich (King’s College London)

Abstract: Near the beginning of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Clarissa Dalloway walks past St James’s Park and becomes caught up in observing the liveliness of the traffic and people around her. In a complex passage, Clarissa proclaims that ‘she would not say of any one in the world now that they were this or were that’, that ‘what she loved was this, here, now, in front of her’, and that ‘it was very, very dangerous to live even one day’. I offer a reading of this passage that uses Edmund Husserl’s notion of a ‘horizon’ to tie these disparate feelings together.

2:05 pm – “The Evaluation of Works of Fiction”
Catharine Abell (Oxford)

Abstract: I have argued that fiction is an institution, where institutions are to be understood as systems of rules that provide equilibrium solutions to coordination problems. Fiction institutions are distinguished from other institutions by the nature of the coordination problems to which their rules provide equilibrium solutions. In particular, their rules solve problems of communicating imaginings. I examine the implications of this view for the question of what makes a feature of a work a good or a bad feature of that work, considered as fiction. I argue that features of works are good features in those works, considered as fiction, if they are effective means of communicating imaginings and bad features if they impede the effectiveness with which those works communicate imaginings.

2:25 pm – wrap-up
2:30 pm – end

Previous Workshops

If you missed the previous workshops, you’re in luck! We recorded them, and they’re available here (“Aesthetics, Ethics, and Politics”), here (“High, Middle, and Low”), and here (“More Birds, More Distant”).

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