By Hilary P. Dannenberg
Read or Download Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction PDF
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Extra info for Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction
Who was come hither in pursuit of his daughter . . had . . fortunately been two hours earlier, he had not only found her, but his niece into the bargain” (Fielding 1966, 490). Here the narrator conceals the ultimate causal-manipulative level of the author by suggesting that the narrative world is subject to a random interplay of phenomena within its own autonomous system of time and space. In contrast to the example from Robinson Crusoe, the causal-manipulative level of Providence is absent and has been replaced by a more pluralistic worldview that suggests multiple possible causal-progenerative sequences (Squire Western does/does not meet his daughter) that are produced according to the random interplay of events and not as part of any grand divine scheme.
Even in the form of a brief insert, as in the example from Tom Jones above, counterfactual narratives play a key contributory role to realist ﬁction’s simulation of a credible environment that in turn sustains the immersed reader’s belief in the narrative world. The reality-enhancing cognitive power of such causal connections is twofold. First, the inbuilt causal reasoning of counterfactuals acts to reinforce the impression of the reality of the ﬁctional world by activating the same causal patterns that the reader uses to make sense of real life, allowing her to equate the ﬁctional world with the real one.
The following examples illustrate the historical transition away from a construction of events in which a providential god—implicitly located in a metaworld that is part of the narrative c o gn it i v e pl ot t i ng world—is deemed to be causally manipulating events toward more pluralistic forms of causal justiﬁcation. Causation in the Coincidence Plot In the traditional form of the coincidence plot, characters with a previous connection (of kinship, friendship, or even enmity) are brought together under remarkable and apparently random circumstances.