Relevant Logics, Counterfactual Worlds, and the Understanding of Narrative

In Matei Chihaia & Katharina Rennhak (eds.), Relevance and Narrative Research. Lanham, USA / London: Lexington Books. pp. 37-60 (2019)
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The aim of this paper is to explore what insights relevant logics may provide for the understanding of literary fictional narrative. To date, hardly anyone has reflected on the intersection of relevant logics and narratology, and some could think that there is good reason for it. On the one hand, relevance has been a prominent issue in pragmatics, in the tradition of Grice, and Sperber and Wilson; thus framed, relevance is highly context-sensitive, so it seems unsuitable for formal analysis. On the other hand, the very idea of a logic of narrative has been criticized, arguing that logic brings to a stasis the time of human action (Ricœur, II: 29-60), or that its emphasis on rules misses the creative, unpredictable character of literature (De Man)... First, I will briefly introduce relevant logics, with an eye to showing their interest for narratological concerns, rather than to here providing a coherent (let alone comprehensive) survey. Secondly, lest I get drawn into purely abstract discussion, I will analyse several stories in order to give some instances of the kind of topics congenial to narratology that may be addressed with a relevantist toolkit. Thirdly (and lastly), I will expand in more theoretical fashion on certain issues raised in the second section and bring them into connection with pragmatic relevance theory.
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