Abstract When reading literature, we might have an emotional connection with the author, or at least what appears to be such, even when that literature is a work of fiction. But it is unclear how a work of fictional literature could supply the resources for such an experience. It is, after all, a work of fiction, not a report of the author’s experience, as with memoir or autobiography. The task of this paper is twofold: first, to explain the nature and value of this emotional experience; second, to argue that a fictional literary work can supply the resources for such an experience. 1. Authorial Connectedness Much has been written on the value of emotional response to fictional characters, especially when what is evoked is empathy for them.1 But little has been written about the emotional connection it at least appears a reader might have with an author. When reading a literary work, we might feel a sense of intimacy, as though we are getting to know the author on a deep personal level. In this intimacy, we might even feel a sense of identification, a robust resonance with the way the author describes and sees the world. As David Foster Wallace expresses in an interview: There’s another level [on which] a piece of fiction is a conversation. There’s a relationship set up between the reader and the writer that’s very strange and very complicated and hard to talk about. ... There’s a kind of Ah-ha! Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s these brief flashes and flames, but I get that sometimes. I feel unalone—intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. I feel human and unalone and that I’m in a deep, significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and poetry in a way that I don’t with other art.2 Notably, Wallace’s fiction often seems to evoke something like this in his readers. In her reflection on the cult community that surrounds Wallace’s work, Fitzpatrick argues that ‘many of his readers experience a sense of intimate connection with his writing, a connection that can very easily bleed over into a relationship, however imagined, with the man himself’.3 Experiences of this kind are what I will explore in this paper; call such experiences authorial connectedness. We now need a sharper picture of what authorial connectedness consists in, for it is not entirely clear how reading literature could lead to an experience of this kind. That is the task of Section 2. Then, in Section 3, I argue that fictional literature (as fictional literature) can supply the resources for something like authorial connectedness, even if not authorial connectedness itself. But first, something must be said about what authorial connectedness is not. It might be tempting to class authorial connectedness as a kind of friendship. It certainly seems easy to conceive of a favorite author as a kind of friend. As Gekoski puts it, for so many people—not just authors and serious readers—an admired writer is a peculiar but superior form of ‘friend’. There are a number of senses of the term in which this seems true: someone you can turn to; someone who has wisdom to transmit; who has been a constant and trusted presence; who can share similar experiences with us; who can give without asking anything in return.4 In his book The Company We Keep, Wayne Booth uses the metaphor of friendship to construct an account of the ethical criticism of literature. But it is for this reason that I want to resist the notion of friendship in understanding the emotional relationship readers perceive themselves having with authors: it is a metaphor. What I am interested in understanding is the actual emotional connection a reader might perceive herself having with an author. Additionally, the metaphor of friendship is applied both to the relationship readers perceive themselves having with authors and the relationship readers perceive themselves having with books,5 at times without care for how distinct these relationships are.6 It might also be tempting to see authorial connectedness as akin to something Levinson notes as a potential reward of listening to music, something he calls Emotional Communion. This reward amounts to the listener adopting the assumption that the emotion expressed in a work was felt by the composer and thus, when the listener is moved to that emotion because of the work, she feels she is having a shared experience with the composer. As such, Emotional Communion offers a feeling of intimacy with the composer. In Levinson’s words: The emotional separateness and alienation which occur frequently in daily living are here miraculously swept aside in imaginative identification with the composer whose feelings are, on the Expressionist assumption, plainly revealed for any listener to hear and to mirror.7 So too it might go for literature as, of course, Tolstoy and Collingwood believed, since for them transmitting emotion is the essential business of art.8 In assuming that the author felt the emotions expressed in her work, when moved to these emotions, the reader may experience a feeling of emotional intimacy with the author. Of course, Emotional Communion had with a composer and Emotional Communion had with a literary author are not exactly alike. While the latter involves articulate thoughts, it is not obvious that the former does. But, more importantly, while Emotional Communion and authorial connectedness both result in a sense of intimacy with the author, it is intimacy of a different sort. The intimacy had from Emotional Communion is due solely to a feeling evoked in the reader by the work. The intimacy had from authorial connectedness is due, in part, to the reader recognizing something of herself in the work, something she believed or thought or felt before reading the work, for authorial connectedness turns on the reader feeling as though she has found, in some sense, a fellow soul. 2. Authorial Connectedness Explained In principle, authorial connectedness could be an emotional response that has little to do with the act of reading. Readers might feel authorial connectedness because certain works have sentimental value wholly independent from the works themselves. (A work was a deceased friend’s favorite, for instance.) Or maybe intimacy felt with a loved one is somehow projected onto the author of a work one is reading. In such cases, authorial connectedness might be felt, but due to reasons beyond the reading experience itself. A satisfying explanation of authorial connectedness must locate the cause of authorial connectedness within the act of reading. I argue that four features of the reading experience, taken together, offer such an explanation: the psychological context of reading, sharing expressed beliefs and attitudes, being attracted to the implied author’s personality, and the reward of Expressive Potency. I will address these in turn. The first of these features speaks to what might make the ‘conversation’ Wallace sometimes experiences when reading distinct in kind from other conversations. The second and third features address the notion of connecting with another consciousness when reading. The fourth and final feature attempts to capture what makes the experience of a conversation with an author ‘deep’ and ‘significant’. The Psychological Context of Reading In his critical discussion of Ruskin’s use of the friendship metaphor, Proust identifies an important feature of the act of reading: one receives another’s thoughts but is, in a sense, alone, without the possibility of engaging in conversation (strictly speaking) with the author; and it is this being alone that allows one to engage with the product of another person’s thought in a richer way than one typically does (or can) in conversation. There is the possibility for a strong sense of intimacy, for ‘uniting’, as Proust puts it, with another’s thought.9 But while being alone allows for the possibility of experiencing intimacy with the written thoughts of another, it does not constitute or compel this experience. Being alone and able to concentrate without distraction on the dictionary, say, will likely not result in any sense of intimacy with what is on the page. Whatever gives rise to experiencing a sense of intimacy with an author’s thought must in some way be grounded in the act of reading the author’s thoughts, in having a response to the text itself. So while the solitariness of reading may bolster authorial connectedness—and perhaps make the emotional intimacy experienced distinct in kind—it is some perceived feature (or features) of the text that elicits authorial connectedness in the first place. Shared Beliefs and Attitudes Part of what makes us feel emotionally connected to others is commonality. If we share no points of intersection with what another person thinks, it is difficult to feel emotionally connected to that person. But a reader’s agreeing with the observations, insights, attitudes, and ideas expressed in a work of literature is not enough to elicit a perceived emotional connection with the author, at least not of the intimate kind. Experiencing emotional intimacy with someone requires more than simply having the same beliefs and attitudes. There are plenty of people with whom I share beliefs and attitudes on matters I find important (for example, matters of ethics and politics), but feel little, if any, emotional connection to; and I suspect that it is not uncommon for one to share beliefs and attitudes with another and still dislike that person. If one shares enough beliefs and attitudes with another on matters one finds both important and open to disagreement, an emotional connection might be felt.10 But to experience a rich sense of intimacy, something more is required. Style and Personality Being drawn to someone’s personality is part of liking that person. So if an author’s personality is expressed in her works, then there is the corresponding opportunity for the reader to like the author. Robinson offers an argument for the antecedent. It goes roughly as follows. Grant that individual style—as opposed to school or period style—is a consistent and particular way of doing things. Surely, a particular way of doing things consistently might emanate from an individual’s personality. Someone who has a crass sensibility may have a crass way of dressing. Someone who has an uncompromising character may have an uncompromising way of making decisions. Someone who has a witty mind may speak in a witty way. ‘In expression,’ Robinson argues, an ‘inner’ state is expressed or forced out into ‘outer’ behavior. An ‘inner’ quality of mind, character or personality causes the ‘outer’ behavior to be the way it is, and also leaves its ‘trace’ upon that behavior. A timid or compassionate character leaves a ‘trace’ of timidity or compassion upon the actions which express it.11 Thus one is justified in taking the mode or manner in which individuals consistently dress and speak and generally conduct themselves as a window into their personalities. So too goes the story for individual style in literature. It is a particular way of doing certain things consistently—constructing phrases, punctuating sentences, delineating lines, presenting a theme, describing a setting or the psychological workings of a character, and so on—and one is justified in taking that way as an expression of the author’s personality. Thus the consistently obsessive tone of Thomas Bernhard’s novels expresses Bernhard’s obsessive temperament. David Foster Wallace’s consistent way of constructing introspective narrators expresses his own tendency toward introspection. Or, to use Robinson’s examples, [Henry] James’ humorous yet compassionate way of describing Strether’s bewilderment expresses the writer’s own humorous yet compassionate attitude. Jane Austen’s ironic way of describing social pretension expresses her ironic attitude to social pretension.12 There is, however, one large qualification in order. Strictly speaking, the individual style of a literary work expresses the personality of ‘what, following Wayne Booth, we might call the “implied author”, that is, the author as she seems to be from the evidence of the work’.13 Though we are justified in inferring that someone’s way of speaking or acting expresses features of her (actual) personality, the situation is trickier for works of literature. Authors commonly employ or adopt personas when narrating their works. This may seem especially salient in fictional works narrated from the first person. Nabokov has his Humbert Humbert; Salinger has his Holden Caulfield; Melville has his Ishmael. But the implied author is distinct from first-person narrators. First-person narrators are characters in the work; the implied author is not. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily position the implied author any closer to the actual author. As Robinson notes, ‘however querulous and intolerant the actual Tolstoy may have been in real life, the implied author of Anna Karenina is full of compassionate understanding’.14 Even with a work of non-fiction, it seems we are not justified in attributing the personality expressed through the work’s style to the actual author. As David Foster Wallace says in an interview, ‘in those essays that you like in Harper’s, there’s a certain persona created, that’s a little stupider and schmuckier than I am.’15 In some cases, it may be that a work’s implied author overlaps entirely with the actual author. But from the work alone, we cannot determine to what degree the implied and actual authors overlap, if at all. Or this is, at least, the appropriate default position. Anything more calls for an argument of some kind; and I will consider the possibility of such an argument in Section 3. There is some dispute over the notion of the implied author. But at minimum, the implied author is intelligible as a pragmatic device. Rabinowitz gives an argument to this effect.16 And the editor of a special issue of Style on the implied author says the following: The conclusion of this inventory of the practice of authors over several centuries in both high and ‘low’ forms is that the construction of the persona projected by the author is important to literary analysis and that the term ‘implied author’ is a most useful one to identify the congruence or divergence of different historical authors and inferred authorial voices in a work or body of work.17 Even Stecker, who argues that positing an implied author is unnecessary, admits that the perspective a novelist adopts in presenting this world [of the novel] may itself only be entertained. … The writer may be exploring it, trying to imagine what it would be like to actually hold, but he does not hold it.18 Used pragmatically, the term ‘implied author’ simply picks out this perspective that the author adopts, be it actually held, merely entertained, or somewhere in between. For the purposes of this paper, a pragmatic understanding of the implied author is all that is required. Nothing of conceptual or metaphysical substance turns on the term as I will use it; it should be understood only as shorthand for indicating uncertainty as to whether the perspective presented by a work of fiction—including its expressed beliefs and attitudes as well as its mode of expression, its way of expressing—is the author’s actual perspective or one she merely entertained. It may be that we do not need the notion of an implied author, but some shorthand to indicate our epistemic position with respect to a work of fiction’s presented perspective and the author’s actual perspective is certainly useful. Now, this matter of the implied author may spell trouble for fictional literature (as fictional literature) supplying the resources for authorial connectedness. After all, any emotional intimacy felt on account of the personality expressed through a work’s style will seemingly be, strictly speaking, emotional intimacy had with the implied author, not the author herself. And I will take up this trouble later. But this does not pose trouble for a satisfying explanation of authorial connectedness, of the fact that readers may feel a sense of intimacy with the author. Even if, strictly speaking, the personality expressed through a work’s style is that of the implied author’s, it nonetheless gives the sense of a singular consciousness as the cause of the text, one with a personality to which the reader may be drawn, and one which the reader may reasonably take as the actual author’s. Even savvy readers, those well aware of the distinction between the implied and actual author, may reasonably take the implied author’s personality as overlapping with the actual author’s and thereby project the connection they feel with the personality expressed in the work onto the actual author. There may be narrators whose personalities few readers would take as the actual author’s; but such cases certainly do not constitute the rule, even for first-person works. Robinson’s account of style is not uncontroversial. As such, it may appear that for personality to be of any use in explaining authorial connectedness, a defense of Robinson’s account is wanting. But for the purposes of explaining authorial connectedness, there is no need to adopt Robinson’s entire account. The fact that some features of style express the implied author’s personality—namely, those things that are done in a uniquely particular way consistently—is all that is required. Robinson’s argument seems to establish this much, even if objections to her account of individual style itself are convincing.19 Still, being drawn to someone’s personality is not typically enough to establish emotional intimacy. We may be drawn to another’s personality, like that person as a result and thus have the foundation to develop emotional intimacy. But if that relationship begins and ends with merely getting along well, the chance of emotional intimacy seems dim. I may be drawn to someone’s personality and yet find that our interests, perspectives, and beliefs are wildly divergent. It may be that being drawn to or identifying with the implied author’s personality in addition to sharing the beliefs and attitudes expressed in the work does give us a satisfying explanation of authorial connectedness, generally speaking. Anyone who has a personality you find mesmerizing and with whom you share beliefs and attitudes is certainly someone with whom you may experience intimacy. But to experience the especially rich sort of connection Wallace describes, one that is ‘deep’ and ‘significant’, it seems something more must be at work. Levinson’s analysis of emotional response to music can shed some light on this. Expressive Potency When listening to music, Levinson argues that we may experience what he calls the reward of Expressive Potency. On the nature of this experience, it is worth quoting Levinson at length. If one begins to regard music as the expression of one’s own current emotional state, it will begin to seem as if it issues from oneself, as if it pours forth from one’s innermost being. It is then very natural for one to receive an impression of expressive power—of freedom and ease in externalizing and embodying what one feels. The sense one has of the richness and spontaneity with which one’s inner life is unfolding itself, even where the feelings involved are of the negative kind, is a source of undeniable joy.20 If we relax the bit about ‘one’s own current emotional state’ to include the whole of one’s current cognitive state or cognitive dispositions, then Levinson’s reward of Expressive Potency extends nicely to the literary case. In addition to its expression of emotion, a work of literature might be perceived as expressively potent or powerful in its portrayal of events, mode of description, and manner in which observations, insights, attitudes, and ideas are expressed. Thus the reader of a literary work may feel a connection of the sort Levinson describes with respect to any of these features. The reader may feel as though she would portray some event, describe some object, or present some observation in the way the author does, maybe even so much so that it begins to feel to the reader that were she to write a book, it would be just like the one she is reading.21 Of course the reader most likely does not have the expressive power to write or have written such a book. But, as Levinson notes of the musical case: The composer’s musical genius makes possible the imaginative experience described above, and we can remain aware of that throughout. But this does not take away the resulting satisfaction. The coat may be borrowed, but it is just as warm.22 In fact, with the literary case, being aware that the coat is borrowed is an important component of the emotional experience. Were the reader not aware that it is another’s coat, another’s thoughts and mode of expression, she would not then be able to believe that there is another person in the world whose thoughts mirror her own, another person who sees things as she does or, more accurately, as she would if she had the expressive power of the author. It is, to return the metaphor, a matter of the coat fitting perfectly—better, even, than anything one owns—and yet still recognizing it as borrowed. Put concisely, then, Expressive Potency in literature amounts to the following: when reading a passage within a work of literature that expresses x, the reader values, broadly speaking, the content expressed by x and believes that were she to have the expressive powers of the author, she would have expressed x in the way the author has. In its most robust form, the reader highly values the content expressed by x and believes she would have expressed x in exactly the way the author has. But, in principle, if the reader values the content expressed by x and believes she would have expressed x in the way the author has to some degree, a corresponding amount of Expressive Potency will be felt. I should also note that while Levinson appears to make an empirical claim about what will happen if one regards music in a certain way, in extending Expressive Potency to literature, I make no such claims. To be sure, there is a threshold below which the weakness of the experience renders it unnoteworthy, as something that would not play much of a role in explaining authorial connectedness. But when notable, Expressive Potency—taken together with sharing beliefs and attitudes expressed in the work, being drawn to the manifest personality of the implied author, and the psychological context of reading—tips the scales in this explanation. It is also what makes authorial connectedness an especially rich form of felt emotional intimacy. When compared to our daily interpersonal engagements, reading literature occupies a special place in its ability to evoke Expressive Potency and the felt emotional intimacy that comes with it. Though Expressive Potency may, in principle, be evoked when conversing in the flesh, even authors of expressively powerful works are, I suspect, rarely so expressively powerful in their daily interpersonal engagements. Writing is often considered to be a craft, and works of literature things that have been crafted, written and revised and rewritten. The author of an expressively powerful work most likely did not create it in one go or at the speed at which typical conversations progress. Rather, it most likely took various stages of fine-tuning so as to render the expression just so. As Lamott says in her well-known book on writing: ‘Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.’23 In our everyday interpersonal lives, our expression does not typically undergo any matter of revision or refining; we are left only with our first efforts. Given the special role Expressive Potency plays in authorial connectedness, it is tempting to think that experiencing Expressive Potency when reading may, in itself, constitute a rich sense of emotional intimacy with the author of a work of fiction. After all, a reader may value the content expressed in a passage without sharing the beliefs and attitudes expressed in that passage. Finding someone’s beliefs or attitudes worthwhile, deep, or significant does not entail having those beliefs and attitudes. And, in principle, a reader need not be drawn to the implied author’s manifest personality in order to believe that were she to have the powers of the author, she would have expressed the content of the passage in the way the author has. Expressive Potency and the implied author’s personality are both predicated on a work’s mode of expression and thus may naturally go hand in hand. But it may be that a reader simply finds a particular passage expressively potent without being drawn to the particular and consistent way in which the work is written. To be sure, this has the makings of an emotionally powerful experience. Nevertheless, I do not believe the experience of Expressive Potency alone could constitute a sense of emotional intimacy with the author. Feeling such intimacy requires believing you are in, as Wallace puts it, ‘conversation with another consciousness’; and it is the personality expressed through a work’s style that provides the sense of a singular consciousness as the cause of the text. So for a feeling of emotional intimacy, the experience of Expressive Potency must be accompanied by a feeling of being drawn to the implied author’s personality. Such intimacy has the potential to be rich, even if falling short of the complete emotional experience Wallace describes and thus of authorial connectedness proper. In a sense, sharing beliefs and attitudes comes cheap; a work without any particular, consistent, or notable mode of expression may still express beliefs and attitudes that intersect with a reader’s beliefs and attitudes. Thus even if shared beliefs and attitudes are required for authorial connectedness, mode of expression does the heavy lifting and, on its own, can provide a powerful sense of emotional intimacy. Call such emotional intimacy expressive authorial connectedness. A Satisfying Explanation In its most emotionally intimate moments, in those that constitute authorial connectedness, reading a work of fiction can feel as though you are engaging with the thoughts of a person whose beliefs and attitudes intersect with yours, whose personality you find mesmerizing, and who expresses content you value and does so in a way that you believe you would if you could, if you had such expressive power. All of this is intensified by a context ripe for emotional intimacy, one in which it feels as though it is only you and another’s thoughts. But even if this constitutes a satisfying explanation for felt authorial connectedness, it is still unclear how a work of fictional literature as such can supply the resources for authorial connectedness. A fictional work’s mode of expression and expressed beliefs, attitudes, and personality are, strictly speaking, that of the implied author. They may happen to be, in part or in full, the actual author’s, but they need not be. Any such overlap between the actual and implied authors is beyond the bounds of the work as a work of fiction. In other words, there seems to be no way to justify a suspicion that the actual and implied authors overlap—that the actual author holds as opposed to merely entertains the perspective presented in the work—solely from consideration of the work as a work of fiction. How, then, could the notion of authorial connectedness feature in any proper appreciation of fictional literature? Even expressive authorial connectedness requires that the work’s mode of expression be one the author does not merely entertain. There is, in itself, little solace in finding a fictional character that sees the world the way you do. Likewise, it would seem there is little solace in finding an implied author who sees the world the way you do. That is, in experiencing merely implied authorial connectedness. 3. Authorial Connectedness Justified Considerations of oeuvre and biography are often features of literary criticism, in both matters of understanding and appreciation; and they might yield evidence of overlap between the author’s genuine mode of expression and expressed beliefs, attitudes, and personality and the mode of expression and expressed beliefs, attitudes, and personality of one or more of her fictional work’s implied authors.24 But on the one hand, I am sceptical of considerations of oeuvre itself proving all that useful; and, on the other hand, a consideration of biography in matters of literary appreciation is contested. Thus it would be desirable to justify authorial connectedness on more neutral ground. While I am not so sure this desideratum can be met, I believe there are two promising possibilities. First, with the help of Colin Lyas’s thoughts on the limits of pretence, I argue that expressive authorial connectedness is justified with the author as she was in the act of writing. Second, with the help of Eileen John’s thoughts on an artist’s sensibility, I argue that something like authorial connectedness is justified, an emotional intimacy with the author that, even if not as rich as authorial connectedness, is still notable. However, before pursuing any of these issues, I will consider one possible means of arguing that considerations of a work of fiction itself can, in fact, justify authorial connectedness. Plainness of Style Andrew Kania argues that some authors (Graham Greene, for example) write in a ‘plain third-person omniscient narrative style’ from which we can infer that the author herself is narrating the story.25 Now, Kania’s primary concern is the unnecessary positing of fictional narrators. He says nothing about whether a plain third-person omniscient narrative style justifies inferring that the perspective presented in the narrative is the author’s actual perspective, that, in other words, the implied author overlaps with the actual author. Nevertheless, one might be tempted to develop this line of argument. It is difficult, however, to see how it could get any traction. A plain third-person omniscient style is surely something an author could merely entertain. Someone who, in actuality, tends toward verbosity and bombast may, in her writing, adopt a plain style. This might be because she enjoys works of fiction with a plain style or because she believes a plain style will better allow the reader to become immersed in the story. Still, I think the spirit of this line of argument has promise. Plainness of style may not justify inferring that the author is not merely entertaining a perspective, but perhaps there are other features that do. I will consider this possibility later. Oeuvre Considerations of an author’s oeuvre, when that oeuvre includes only fictional works, provide little if any more evidence of overlap between actual and implied author than considerations of a single fictional work. If mode of expression and expressed beliefs, attitudes, and personality are consistent across the oeuvre, it is much more tempting to think that these qualities are qualities of the actual author, especially when the body of work is large. This does, after all, seem to be the most compelling explanation for the consistency across all works. But considerations of an oeuvre of fictional works cannot determine this explanation. Even if less likely, the author could have constructed a persona she employs when writing her fictional works, a persona whose beliefs, attitudes, personality, and mode of expression are little or nothing like her own. That established authors routinely write works under pseudonyms—sometimes unbeknown to anyone and sometimes, as Joyce Carol Oates says, because ‘I wanted to escape my own identity’—lends to the plausibility of this.26 Even if an author’s oeuvre includes non-fictional works, it is not clear that the situation is, in principle, much better. Recall the ‘stupider and schmuckier’ persona behind at least some of David Foster Wallace’s essays. It would not be surprising if other writers of non-fiction would admit to such divergence between their genuine selves and the persona some of their works project. For budding writers, there is even a book designed to help them craft their non-fiction persona, ‘which is a version of yourself made of words, a carefully crafted version that you can vary as you see fit. Confident or fretful, solemn or sassy, tough or tender, casual or formal—these are just a few of the many stances you can assume’.27 And Phelan argues, intuitively so, that the actual author and implied author of a non-fictional work can diverge unintentionally.28 In fact, it seems easy to imagine an unskilled writer’s words expressing a personality radically divergent from her own. I especially have stilted prose in mind, the kind that can make it seem that someone is uptight and rigid, when they are in fact not. So considerations of an author’s oeuvre, even if it includes non-fictional works, will not justify authorial connectedness. Biography As both Lamarque and Olsen note, considerations of biography in the appreciation of fictional literature are commonplace.29 And Olsen argues that ‘biographical information that provides a background for appreciation poses no real challenge to the integrity of the literary work’.30 If biographical information can bear on our appreciation of fictional literature as fictional literature, then justifying authorial connectedness is straightforward. If an author’s biographical information indicates that, for the relevant fictional work, the mode of expression and expressed beliefs, attitudes, and personality of the implied author and actual author sufficiently overlap, then authorial connectedness had when reading that work is justified. But whether biographical information can in fact play a role in the appreciation of literature as literature is a contested issue. In light of this dispute, Lamarque suggests a pragmatic approach, one that evaluates the relevance of biographical information on a case-by-case basis. While this seems reasonable, it is not my business in this paper to adjudicate the debate over the relevance of biographical information to literary appreciation. Furthermore, it would be nice for the justification of authorial connectedness not to be hostage to a particular stance on a contested issue. The Limits of Pretence Lyas argues that, in matters of personality and thus the construction of a persona, there are limits to pretence, both in matters of ‘what it is possible for a pretender to pretend and what it makes sense for an audience to assume is being pretended’.31 When the implied author is perceptive, sensitive, emotionally mature and the like, there seems to be little sense in the supposition that the artist has, by an act of pretence, embodied these characteristics in a work although he himself was not possessed of them. The judgment that the work is these things is the judgment that the author there exhibited those qualities (though he might not otherwise exhibit them in the responses of his or her non-literary life).32 There does appear to be something to this. But some sorting is in order. First, what ‘makes sense for an audience to assume is being pretended’ only has bearing on explaining, not justifying, authorial connectedness, as it only establishes the reasonableness of experiencing authorial connectedness, not (actual) authorial connectedness itself. When it comes to justifying authorial connectedness, the limits of pretence on the pretender are all that is of concern. Second, whether there are such limits of pretence on the pretender is ultimately an empirical question, and one that is beyond the scope of this paper. However, it is difficult to imagine someone able merely to pretend being, say, sensitive. At least in that moment when sensitivity is expressed, it seems the person was in fact sensitive. It may be that an especially cunning sociopath could pull off something like this; but for the sake of argument, grant that Lyas is right about these limits. When style expresses or mode of expression demonstrates sensitivity, the actual author, at least in those moments, was sensitive. Third, though Lyas does not discuss mode of expression, it is obvious that pretence has limits there. The very act of embodying a particular mode of expression or way of writing itself demonstrates that the author was possessed of that mode of expression. As long as what is written is original, embodying or exhibiting a mode of expression requires, trivially so, being possessed of that mode of expression. It is impossible both to write a sentence in some way and pretend to write that sentence in that way. However, this does not mean that the mode of expression is the author’s actual mode of expression, the one—or one of the ones—she uses to communicate and express herself in everyday life. One may be possessed of a mode of expression and yet still merely be entertaining that mode of expression. While this does not get us to the justification of authorial connectedness full stop, it may justify connectedness with the author as she was in the act of writing. Call this literary authorial connectedness. To be sure, literary authorial connectedness does not afford the same degree of emotional intimacy as authorial connectedness. But here considerations of oeuvre might be of some help. If a reader experiences literary authorial connectedness when reading work W by author A because of the set of features F, and A’s oeuvre consistently exhibits F, then the reader’s connection with the author does seem more robust. Even if the author does not exhibit F in her non-literary life, that she does consistently exhibit F when engaged in the act of writing seems to say something about her character. But of course the same limits on pretence clearly do not apply to beliefs. In fictional works, the beliefs of the implied author and actual author may be distinct; and as argued above, some shared beliefs are required for authorial connectedness; so literary authorial connectedness is justified only if the beliefs in F are those of the actual author. Here considerations of oeuvre may again be of help. Given the fidelity constraint on non-fiction—such that we are, all things considered, warranted in taking at least the beliefs expressed in the work as the actual author’s—if A’s oeuvre includes non-fictional works and those non-fictional works express the beliefs in F, then we are warranted in taking those beliefs as the actual author’s, and literary authorial connectedness is thereby justified. If Levinson is right that an artist’s oeuvre ‘can, at least in many cases, be seen as, or as the upshot of, a single artistic act’, and thus that ‘it is possible to understand the items in an oeuvre, or some significant portion of it, to be the utterance of a single individual or mind, and the carrier of a unified enterprise of meaning’, such holistic assessment might be required.33 But this justification is a tall order. It turns on the author’s oeuvre containing non-fictional works and the author’s non-fictional works expressing at least some of the same beliefs in the author’s fictional works. Many authors of fiction, however, do not write non-fiction. If we widen the scope of non-fictional work to include prefaces, open letters, blogs, lecture transcripts, interviews, and so on—or, in other words, if we relax the traditional conception of oeuvre—we will get more mileage out of consideration of an author’s oeuvre. Many authors have at least one of these non-fictional items in their historical record. But it is beyond this paper to consider an argument for such widening. As with biography, it would be nice for the justification of authorial connectedness to stand on less contested ground. Nevertheless, even if literary authorial connectedness cannot be justified, expressive literary authorial connectedness can. As already argued, whatever an original work’s mode of expression is, the author was trivially possessed of that mode of expression in the act of writing. So provided that Lyas’s limits of pretence on the pretender withstand empirical scrutiny, whenever the characteristics constrained by these limits compose—in conjunction with mode of expression—the implied author’s personality, the reader is justified in believing the actual author was possessed of that personality in the act of writing. Thus, if the reader is drawn to the author’s personality and experiences Expressive Potency, the reader is justified in experiencing expressive authorial connectedness with the author as she was in the act of writing. The reader is, in other words, justified in experiencing expressive literary authorial connectedness. Sensibility John argues that the practice of art, as an intensely focused and reflective making, gives a default warrant for the rest of us to take nearly every mark, every feature that we think could be controlled by the artist, as evidence of something the artist found to be worth experiencing.34 This seems fairly uncontroversial, especially when it comes to literature. It would be incredibly odd for someone to write a work of literature that included elements she believed, at least at the time of writing, were not worth experiencing. Sure, there may be cases in which a writer wrote without focus and reflection, simply letting her subconscious lead her pen wherever, willy-nilly. But such cases are not the norm. The default premise of the practice is intense focus and reflection at nearly every turn. So when it comes to literature, it seems John is right. Though the actual author may not overlap with the implied author, we are justified in believing that the actual author in some way values the implied author’s mode of expression and expressed beliefs, attitudes, and personality. We are justified in seeing these features as expressive of the actual author’s sensibility, her sense of what is worth experiencing, considering, or understanding, of what is generally worth being sensitive to.35 Thus even if we do not, in reading fictional literature (strictly as fictional literature), have the chance of finding a fellow human being whose actual perspective resonates deeply with ours, we do have the chance of finding a fellow human being who understands a perspective that resonates deeply with ours, does so with an expressive power beyond our own, and finds that perspective worth experiencing. This, it seems, is grounds for emotionally intimate human connection. This emotional intimacy is not of the extremely rich kind described by Wallace. It lacks a connection with the author’s actual perspective. But this does not mean there are no points of intersection, no commonality had between reader and author. The author’s understanding and, in some sense, appreciating the reader’s way of seeing and experiencing the world is an intersection in itself, and, I think, a strong one. Engaging with someone who understands our perspective on things and finds that perspective worth experiencing is a vibrant and validating piece of social life, one that surely can make us feel less alone intellectually and emotionally, even, it seems, if we only engage with this someone through her written words. Couple this with expressive literary authorial connectedness and the emotional intimacy a reader may justifiably feel when reading a work of fiction looks powerful. In fact, perhaps such intimacy—intimacy predicated on what the author values and is possessed of in the act of writing rather than authorial connectedness full stop—is of most value from a literary perspective. George Saunders explains that his writing process consists less of executing a predetermined intention and more of making thousands of incremental adjustments that result in ‘a story that is better than I am in “real life”—funnier, kinder, less full of crap, more empathetic, with a clearer sense of virtue, both wiser and more entertaining’.36 Perhaps, then, what is special about literature, what it can offer that other encounters in life cannot is an emotional intimacy with a better version of the author or with that to which the author aspires. An argument for this possibility, however, will have to wait for another time.37 Footnotes 1 See, for instance, Jenefer Robinson, Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and its Role in Literature, Music, and Art (New York: OUP, 2005) and ‘Emotion and the Understanding of Narrative’, in Garry L. Hagberg and Walter Jost (eds), A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. 2010), 71–92. 2 Laura Miller, ‘The Salon Interview: David Foster Wallace’, in Stephen J. Burn (ed.), Conversations with David Foster Wallace (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 58–65, at 62. 3 Kathleen Fitzpatrick, ‘Infinite Summer: Reading, Empathy, and The Social Network’, in Samuel Cohen and Lee Konstantinou (eds), The Legacy of David Foster Wallace (Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press), 182–207, at 184–185. 4 Rick Gekoski, ‘Some of My Worst Friends are Books’, The Guardian, 17 January 2012 <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jan/17/friends-books-rick-gekoski> accessed 2 October 2017. 5 For a treatment of the latter that does not lean on the metaphor, see Jerrold Levinson, ‘Falling in Love with a Book’, in Aesthetic Pursuits (New York: OUP, 2016), 77–82. 6 See Gekoski, ‘Some of My Worst Friends are Books’, for instance. 7 Jerrold Levinson, ‘Music and Negative Emotion’, in Music, Art, and Metaphysics: Essays in Philosophical Aesthetics (New York: OUP, 2011), 306–335, at 329. 8 See Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?, trans. Aylmer Maude (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. Publishers, 1899), particularly 39–45, and R. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art (New York: OUP, 1938), particularly 300–324. 9 Marcel Proust, On Reading Ruskin, eds. and trans. Jean Autret, William Buford, and Phillip J. Wolfe (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), 147. 10 Trivially, one shares an infinite number of beliefs with nearly everyone. Most people believe that 1 + 1 = 2, 2 + 1 = 3, and so on. Such beliefs are certainly important, but they are not open to disagreement. 11 Jenefer Robinson, ‘Style and Personality in the Literary Work’, The Philosophical Review 94 (1985): 227–247, at 229. Tillyard also suggests this line of thought, though much less explicitly. See E. M. W. Tillyard and C. S. Lewis, The Personal Heresy: a Controversy (Oxford: OUP, 1939), 35. 12 Robinson, ‘Style and Personality in the Literary Work’, 230. 13 Ibid., 234. 14 Ibid. 15 David Lipsky, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace (New York: Broadway Books), 41. 16 Peter J. Rabinowitz, ‘“The Absence of Her Voice from that Concord”: The Value of the Implied Author’, Style 45 (2011), 99–108. 17 Brian Richardson, ‘Introduction. The Implied Author: Back from the Grave or Simply Dead Again?’ Style 45 (2011), 1–10, at 6. 18 Robert Stecker, ‘Apparent, Implied, and Postulated Authors’, Philosophy and Literature 11 (1987), 258–271, at 269. 19 For such objections, see Nick Riggle, ‘Personal Style and Artistic Style’, The Philosophical Quarterly 65 (2015), 711–731, at 715–719 and Stephanie Ross, ‘Style in Art’, Jerrold Levinson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics (New York: OUP, 2003), 228–244, at 240. 20 Levinson, ‘Music and Negative Emotion’, 328. 21 In the notion of Expressive Potency there is an echo of Collingwood’s idea of artist and audience as collaborators: ‘In so far as the artist feels himself at one with his audience, … it will mean that he takes it as his business to express not his own private emotions, irrespectively of whether any one else feels them or not, but the emotions he shares with his audience’ (The Principles of Art, 312). 22 Levinson, ‘Music and Negative Emotion’, 328–329. 23 Anne Lammot, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (New York: Pantheon Books, 1994), 25. Many books on the craft of writing offer similar advice. 24 See Stein Haugom Olsen, ‘Biography in Literary Criticism’, in Garry L. Hagberg and Walter Jost (eds), A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2010), 436–452 and Peter Lamarque, The Philosophy of Literature (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2009), 84–131. 25 Andrew Kania, ‘Against the Ubiquity of Fictional Narrators’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 63 (2005), 47–54, at 50 26 Edwin McDowell, ‘A Sad Joyce Carol Oates Forswears Pseudonyms’, The New York Times, 10 February 1987 <http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/07/05/specials/oates-pseudonyms.html> accessed 2 October 2017. 27 Carl H. Klaus, A Self Made of Words: Crafting a Distinctive Persona in Non-fiction Writing (Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2013), xi–xii. 28 James Phelan, ‘The Implied Author, Deficient Narration, and Non-fiction Narrative: Or, What’s Off-Kilter in The Year of Magical Thinking and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’, Style 45 (2011), 119–137. 29 Lamarque, The Philosophy of Literature, 91–95; Olsen, ‘Biography in Literary Criticism’, 436. 30 Olsen, ‘Biography in Literary Criticism’, 446. 31 Colin Lyas, ‘The Relevance of the Author’s Sincerity’, in Peter Lamarque (ed.), Philosophy and Fiction: Essays in Literary Aesthetics (Aberdeen, UK: Aberdeen University Press, 1983), 17–37, at 22. 32 Ibid. 33 Jerrold Levinson,‘Work and Oeuvre’, in The Pleasures of Aesthetics: Philosophical Essays (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 242–273, at 245–246. 34 Eileen John, ‘Beauty, Interest, and Autonomy’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (2012), 193–202, at 200. 35 It might be argued that one’s sensibility is an aspect of one’s personality, especially if that sensibility is consistently expressed. Thus if a particular sensibility is consistently expressed across an author’s oeuvre, it might be argued that we are justified in taking that sensibility as an aspect of the actual author’s personality. But I will not pursue that possibility here. 36 George Saunders, ‘George Saunders: What Writers Really Do When they Write’, The Guardian, 4 March 2017 <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/04/what-writers-really-do-when-they-write> accessed 2 October 2017. 37 Thanks to Jerrold Levinson, Rachel Singpurwalla, Samuel Kerstein, Karen Simecek, and an anonymous referee for numerous helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper. Thanks also to the audiences of the British Society of Aesthetics 2016 Annual Conference, the European Society for Aesthetics 2015 Conference, and The Second Annual David Foster Wallace Conference, where previous drafts of this paper were presented. Special thanks to Rebecca Whiting for helping me work through these ideas from the beginning. © British Society of Aesthetics 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society of Aesthetics. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The British Journal of Aesthetics – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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