Great Expectations

A blog of the Department of English at BGSU:A place for faculty, students and alumni to connect.

Names in Fiction

Posted by bgsuenglish on March 10, 2008

The Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages International Forum invites you to a talk by Dr. Jonathan Abel of the Japanese and Asian Studies program titled “When Possible Worlds Collide: Proper Names and the Possibilities of Self Reference. ” This event will take place on Wednesday, March 12 at 7:30 pm in Room 101 Shatzel Hall, and is free and open to all.

Both the use of proper names taken from the real world and the explicit obfuscation of real world names in literature suggest that the possible worlds of modal thought continue to provide useful models for the poetics. These issues arise particularly in overt satire or coy allegory, whether roman à clef or alternate history.

The key to such fictional naming lies in the real world existence of their referents. When is it OK to use real names? How is literature liable to libel? These issues are further complicated when novels containing names with real world referents also refer to themselves. Novels that name their own title as an object in their fictional world expose not only the function of literary critique but also the limits of fictional autonomy. This paper considers the work of Philip Roth, Philip K. Dick, Yahagi Toshiko, Hoshino Tomoyuki, and Christian von Ditfurth to consider what names the self, how we name the worlds of fiction, and when naming is too much.

For information call Geoff Howes at 419 372 7139 or email


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