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The literal truth : enquiry into novels and reality Farzaneh, Arash

Abstract

In this study I shall discuss the "dangers" inherent in the misinterpretation of reading and the consequences of treating life as novelistic creation. B y examining two famous readers in literary history, Don Quixote and Emma B ovary, I shall demonstrate in what ways they apply fictitious ideas and beliefs to a mundane and everyday world that appears to be hostile and not conducive to such ideals. In order to show the emergence and importance of "realistic" novels, I w i l l briefly outline the history of the novel in its historical and social context. We will see differences in thought and philosophy in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the so-called modern, scientific age of ours. By underlining the significance of the philosophy of the times, the Zeitgeist, we shall gain insight into the processes of reading and writing. Furthermore, I shall attempt to explain the ambiguity and vagueness of language itself, as both a means of communication and of conveying ideas. Here I will use examples of post-structuralist thought, which attempts to undermine the importance of language in the scientific age and reveal its problems and difficulties. The reading process and its psychological ramifications are then singled out through the use of concrete examples of the two novels under study, Don Quixote and Madame Bovary. The characters of these two novels embody different perspectives on and paradigms of the world, which have been coined as quixotic and bovarystic, respectively. This entails the assumption that books contain truth and reflect reality as it is. However, since books give us a biased and distorted account of reality and stand in contrast to everyday reality, books can be deceiving and misleading. Emma and Don Quixote are misled by the lure of fiction and search for literal truths. This acts as a source of conflict and constant disillusion in their lives. We will see what such literal truths entail and in what ways the two readers may have been mistaken about the world. This discussion w i l l hopefully give us a better understanding of literature, of both reading and writing and show the relevance and importance that literature plays in the texture of our lives.

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