It's all make believe: ethics, fiction and a writer's responsibilities

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Gandolfo, Enza (2011) It's all make believe: ethics, fiction and a writer's responsibilities. In: The Ethical Imaginations: Writing Worlds Papers: the refereed proceedings of the 16th conference of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs. Conway-Herron, Janie, Costello, Moya and Hawryluk, Lynda, eds. Australasian Association of Writing Programs, Australia, pp. 1-8.


Literary critics from Leavis to Levinas (to borrow from the title of Gibson’s book on ethics and the novel) and including Nussbaum, Booth and Rorty have written much about ethics and fiction. However, in discussions on ethics and fiction writing the focus has mostly been on the use of autobiographical, biographical or historical material. But what of fiction that is ‘make believe’, a work of the imagination: is the fiction writer exempt from ethical responsibilities? In my own fiction writing, my aim is to tell stories that are rarely told, stories that have been hidden or censored, stories about people whose voices have been silenced, or narratives that have previously been misrepresented. While these fictions are works of the imagination – not based on identifiable living people or historical figures – this kind of storytelling, which is often engaged in challenging notions of truth and universality, raises a range of political, ethical and moral dilemmas for the writer (and often also for academics supervising postgraduate students in creative writing). Like the Italian philosopher, Adriana Caverero, I believe that narrating others is a political act and that we are all vulnerable to how others narrate us. Beginning with this premise and with reference to some of the current debates and discussions on ethics in philosophy and literary theory, I will explore and reflect on the ethical questions, dilemmas and challenges that arise in the process of writing fiction.

Item type Book Section
ISBN 9780980757347
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Historical > SEO Classification > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing
Keywords ResPubID24338, fiction writing, ethics
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