Spring 2021

Against Fiction? Committed Narratives of the 21st Century

, 3 pts, UN3665

Against Fiction?

What is the relationship between narrative and facts? Literature and experience? Cinema and real events? In the last decades the progressive affirmation of ‘true stories’, aimed at opening a space of reflection about the present or the recent past, have radically changed the literary and cinematographic landscape. Narratives forms traditionally associated with fiction, such as novels, graphic novels or films, strive to appear objective making use of documentary material or testimonies and introducing real and verifiable data. At the same time, 50 years after American New Journalism, non-fiction is an established genre that is appropriating techniques of fiction and storytelling, such as vivid characters, dramatic situations or autobiographical narrations. This course will introduce you to the debate about the status of contemporary literature and cinema with a particular attention to the flourishing of hybrid narrative forms. A proliferation of labels has been created in the attempt to qualify the numerous crosscontaminations between fiction and non-fiction (journalistic novel, creative non-fiction, faction, literary reportage, non fiction novel, personal essay, docufiction, to name but a few); rather than trying to define them, during the course, we will explore how narratives make their meaning at the unstable frail border of the literary and the journalistic, the imaginative and the factual. Discussing the emergence of a new realistic aesthetic and the return of notions ofcommitment, we will explore how literature and cinema can become invested with a testimonial and documenting value and how authors experiment new communicative forms to recount real events and to cause the reader/spectator to react to them. Alternating theoretical, literary, and filmic materials, we will develop a deeper understanding of the narrative strategies used to convey objectivity while engaging the reader emotionally and critically, and we will get a clearer sense of the role of form and genre. The interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the works of contemporary writers and directors will allow us to raise questions such as: What are the ethical and political implications of telling a story about real events? How do literature and cinema interact with other forms of research and knowledge production? How do these narratives re-imagine the relationship with the reader/spectator? Finally, could cinema and literature still hold a social value whileremaining fictional? This class is suitable for students who have interest not only in literature and cinema but also in social sciences in general. The current use of narrative and storytelling in a wide array of fields, spanning from medicine to human rights advocacy, has made it fundamental to reflect critically on how ‘true’ stories are created and on how they circulate.
Section Number
Call Number
Day, Time & Location
T 2:10PM-4:00PM To be announced
Beatrice Mazzi