London Aesthetics Forum

London Aesthetics Forum
13 June 2018, 4.00pm - 6.00pm
Room 246, Second Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU


Anna Christina Ribeiro (Texas Tech)

(When) Is Poetry Fiction?


The ancient Greek word poiesis, from which our modern English ‘poetry’ derives, means ‘making it up’; anepo-poios was a maker of tales. This might suggest that in Antiquity authors thought of poetry as fiction. More recently, the notion of a ‘poetic persona’, which includes an admonishment never to take the voice of the speaker within a poem to be identical with its author’s, can be said to be one of the few things critics agree to be uncontestable truth—one ignored only by the naïve reader. Yet the number of poems where the presumed persona and the author seem to collapse into one is too large to make this claim credible as a sweeping generalization. This is especially the case with the lyric, which, being written in the first person, invites that identification as a matter of course and entitles us to ask whether a poem can be thought as truly expressing what an author thought, felt, or witnessed. This is not to say that, were we to conclude that there are cases where the author speaks in her voice, we would be forced also to conclude that she is saying only that which is true; after all, we all at times embellish the truth when speaking in our own voices in everyday conversations. Drawing on examples of war poetry, confessional poetry, and various kinds of occasional poetry, I challenge that model of interpretation that would make poems fictional, and metaphorically expressed propositions false, tout court.

The London Aesthetics Forum (LAF) is an ongoing speaker series in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Founded in 2006, the goal of the LAF is to revive philosophical activity in aesthetics within London. The LAF is generously sponsored by the British Society of Aesthetics.Our events are free and open to all.


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