What a Story Does Part 2: Response to Umberto Eco’s Richard Ellman Lecture Series 2008

In his lecture, “Advantages of Fiction for Life and Death”, Eco compares the ontological truth-value of fictional truth and historical truth. He concludes that fiction holds both interior and exterior truths, and is at least as valid as historical truth.

Furthermore, he suggests that fictional truth may be more substantial than historical truth. As an example, he says that we know it to be true that Superman is Clark Kent. This is a fictional truth of which there is no doubt. He compares Superman’s identity to the historical truth that Hitler died in a bunker in Germany, of which there is some possible doubt.

Although he doesn’t discuss other forms of truth I think it is important to include the truth of experience in the comparison. Unlike historical truth, which is a statement about the past, truth of experience would be determined by what we experience in the present moment. I believe that what makes fictional truth more substantial than either of these other truths is that it shares qualities of both.

Eco says that […]

What a Story Does Part 1: Response to Umberto Eco’s Richard Ellman Lecture Series 2008d

The Richard Ellman Lecture series comes every two years at Emory University, and the next one coming is Margaret Atwood in October this year. Umberto Eco’s lectures are available on iTunesU, so hopefully Atwood’s will be too.

I’ve never read Eco’s books, but am aware of him as a famous author and intellectual. I’ve read books that refer to him. And I saw Name of the Rose with Sean Connery, but I don’t think that counts for much. Despite all that, his lectures were very provocative and interesting.

In the first lecture, How I Write ?, Eco reveals much of his writing process, how his ideas are formed and how he works out his novels. He also talks about how he came to be a writer. I like to hear authors give autobiographical accounts of how they started writing and how they sustain themselves. The other day I listened to an interview with Michael Bracken on Reading and Writing podcast. Bracken says he became a writer when he was 14, seriously. He decided he wanted […]