Novels as Arguments

In Frans H. van Eemeren, Bart Garssen, David Godden & Gordon Mitchell (eds.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation [CD-ROM]. Amsterdam: Rozenberg / Sic Sat. pp. 1547-1558 (2011)
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The common view is that no novel IS an argument, though it might be reconstructed as one. This is curious, for we almost always feel the need to reconstruct arguments even when they are uncontroversially given as arguments, as in a philosophical text. We make the points as explicit, orderly, and (often) brief as possible, which is what we do in reconstructing a novel’s argument. The reverse is also true. Given a text that is uncontroversially an explicit, orderly, and brief argument, in order to enhance plausibility, our first instinct is to flesh it out with illustrations and relationships to everyday life. If this process is fictive (e.g., with “thought experiments”) and orderly, it is story-telling. This paper investigates whether there is a principled way of determining a novel’s argument, which should contribute as much to understanding arguments as to understanding novels.
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