Friday, July 13, 2012

imaginary and actual worlds

It makes no sense, e.g., to ask whether the Gretel of one fairy tale and the Gretel of another are the same Gretel, whether what is imagined for the one and predicated of her agrees with or does not agree with what is imagined for the other, etc... Within the same tale I can certainly ask such questions, since, from the beginning, we have a single imaginary world...
In the actual world, nothing remains open; it is what it is. The world of imagination "is," and is such and such, by grace of the imagination which has imagined it; a complex of imaginings never comes to an end that does not open the possibility of a free development in the sense of a new determination.        -- Husserl, Experience and Judgment, p. 173
Most of the chapter I read today was about the temporal unity of objects and worlds that is necessary for relation and comparison to take place -- which I won't get into here. But this page, and especially the reference to imagined worlds, caught my eye, for a couple reasons.

The first connection was to something I'm cooking up as another writing experiment for NaNoWriMo this year. We can ask questions within the same tale, Husserl says, of whether Gretel is the same Gretel. Sure: and in fiction, you can strain realism to the breaking point, or past it, by making these questions the center of the story. I was working on that, in a way. (I promise I haven't written a word of the novel; I have some notes on how I want it to go.)

Now I'm wondering how that kind of problem in fiction could be turned around by having two different stories taking place, with two characters with the same name. Especially if the stories each raised questions about whether the character was the same character within the story, what would happen if both stories, with a character of the same name, each raised those questions? (Comedy of Errors does this to some extent, if you take the two plots as two stories in this way. And obviously, The Bald Soprano knocks this mutha out of the park.)

The other connection I drew is to the notion, in fanfic, of writing within a particular "universe."

There's an important difference. For fanfic writers, as I understand it, "universe" refers to the basic characters, the presupposition of that universe being founded upon what has been written by the originator(s), and the basic furniture of that universe (i.e., if they have space ships, they have space ships; if soap is unheard of, then, to quote Husserl, "it is what it is," and there's no soap).

These ideas aren't so far apart, though. What Husserl means by nothing remaining open in the actual world is that, for there to be any relation and comparison of objects in the actual world, there has to be an objective, unified time to that world -- it simply must be in the same actual world. It's ambiguous: does that mean this world is like a story? Or is this world more like the fanfic concept of a "universe"?

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