"If Only I Were Not Obliged to Manifest": Iser's Aesthetics of Negativity Cover Image
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"Само да не бях длъжен да правя изявление": Естетика на отрицателността на Изер
"If Only I Were Not Obliged to Manifest": Iser's Aesthetics of Negativity

Author(s): Gabriele Shwab
Subject(s): Literary Texts
Published by: Институт за литература - BAN
Keywords: literature; Iser; culture

Summary/Abstract: In relation to the empirical world, the imaginary as otherness is a sort of holy madness that does not turn away from the world but intervenes in it. Negativity provides the structure underlying the interaction between text and reader. Wolfgang Iser The two epigraphs chosen for this section contain in a nutshell the most pressing concerns in Iser's work. Literature as an instrument of “holy madness” figures as a kind of cultural broker whose main role consists in intervening in the empirical world. Defying ontology, fiction, Iser asserts, is most tangible in its impact on the reader: "The more fiction eludes an ontological definition, the more unmistakably it presents itself in terms of its use. If it is no longer confined to an explanatory function, its impact becomes its most prominent feature." Yet how are we to determine this impact? "It has always been assumed that fiction can produce realities," writes Iser almost laconically. Yet, in light of his claim that negativity structures the interaction between text and reader, his insistent question "Why do human beings need fictions?" leads to a quasi-paradoxical answer: fictions become our uncanny doubles, reflecting to us something we otherwise cannot perceive. This "holy madness," this haunting attraction to our self-produced doubles, eternally recreates our world, albeit to produce difference rather than similarity. Mirroring something in us we can never see or fully grasp, literature suspends us forever in a productive negativity, a "space between" the knowable and the unknown. This “space between” needs to remain free of empirical manifestations yet paradoxically manifests itself in our empirical world.

  • Issue Year: 2000
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 41-57
  • Page Count: 17
  • Language: Bulgarian