Navigating the Virtual: Affect, Epistemology, and the Paradox of Fiction

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One of the central aspects to this paper is understanding and attempting to offer a solution to the “paradox of fiction.” The paradox, which questions how we can be moved emotionally by works of fiction, has been addressed with varying degrees of success and it is my hope that by approaching this problem not only through a philosophical lens, but additionally by incorporating aspects of neuroscience and psychology, a more acceptable resolution to the paradox can be located. Interlude as an alternative means of presenting aspects of this research is extremely effective for two primary reasons. The first, and most powerful, is that it allows for the viewer (reader) to experience this paradox firsthand by confronting video clips designed to elicit an emotional response while also allowing the seamless inclusion of theoretical arguments about the paradox itself thus closing the gap between experience and interpretation. Rather than approaching this paradox twice removed—reading about the theorist’s understanding of viewers confronting fiction—the reader can experience the paradox while working through the theoretical material. Furthermore, the mode of interaction offered by Interlude allows one to reflect on immersion and fiction more specifically. If, as Carroll and many cognitive theorists have suggested, our engagement with fictions and our responses to them are fundamentally linked to our interest in a given text, then this platform can also be conceived of as questioning this notion of textual engagement as emotional precursor through its interactivity.


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