The Edges of Fiction
The Edges of Fiction
Translated by Steve Corcoran

What distinguishes fiction from ordinary experience is not a lack of reality but a surfeit of rationality – this was the thesis of Aristotle’s Poetics.  The rationality of fiction is that appearances are inverted.  Fiction overturns the ordinary course of events that occur one after the other, aiming to show how the unexpected arises, happiness transforms into unhappiness and ignorance into knowledge. 

In the modern age, argues Rancière, this fictional rationality was developed in new ways. The social sciences extended the model of causal linkage to all spheres of human action, seeking to show us how causes produce their effects by inverting appearances and expectations.  Literature took the opposite path.  Instead of democratizing fictional rationality to include all human activity in the world of rational knowledge, it destroyed its principles by abolishing the limits that circumscribed a reality peculiar to fiction.  It aligned itself with the rhythms of everyday life and plumbed the power of the “random moment” into which an entire life is condensed.   

In the avowed fictions of literature as well as in the unavowed fictions of politics, social science or journalism, the central question is the same: how to construct the perceptible forms of a shared world. From Stendhal to João Guimarães Rosa and from Marx to Sebald, via Balzac, Poe, Maupassant, Proust, Rilke, Conrad, Auerbach, Faulkner and some others, this book explores these constructions and sheds new light on the constitutive movement of modern fiction, the movement that shifted its centre of gravity from its traditional core toward those edges in which fiction gets confronted with its possible revocation.

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  • December 2019
  • 180 pages
  • 140 x 211 mm / 6 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509530441
  • Paperback $19.95
  • 9781509530458
  • Open eBook $9.99
  • 9781509530472
Table of Contents

Doors and Windows

Behind the Windows
The Eyes of the Poor
What Voyeurs See
Window with a Street View

The Threshold of Science

The Commodity’s Secret
Causality’s Adventures

The Shores of the Real

The Unimaginable
Paper Landscapes

The Edge of the All and the Nothing

The Random Occurrence
Two Stories of Poor People
The Mute’s Speech
The Measureless Moment
About the Author
Jacques Rancière is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Paris-St. Denis.
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‘A probing and scintillating new book on the meaning, rationality and politics of literary fiction. Rancière illuminates the surprising connection between the logic of tragedy, in which ignorance leads to misfortune, and explanation in the modern social sciences. He interrogates how that paradigm slowly unwinds into the democratizing tumult of modernism. An invaluable addition to our understanding of a topic Rancière has made his own: the aesthetic conditions of political reason.’
J.M. Bernstein, The New School for Social Research
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