The University of Southampton

PHIL3042 Fiction and Fictionalism

Module Overview

This module will explore the nature of fiction, what our thought, talk and feelings concerning it involve, and the extent to which we engage in fictions outside the realms of art and literature.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

We are all familiar with fictions from Romeo and Juliet to Jaws, from The Hobbit to Harry Potter. Despite this familiarity, the nature of fiction and of our engagement with it appears puzzling. On the one hand, fictional characters do not exist. On the other hand, we can think and talk about them. Indeed, it seems we can make true claims about them, e.g. that Romeo is the son of Montague. But how can that be true, if it is also true that there is no such person as Romeo? It is as puzzling that we appear to feel for fictional characters. We might weep for Juliet when she finds Romeo dead, even though we know that no one has really died. The aim of this module is to explore what fiction is, what our relationship with fiction involves, and whether we engage with fictions outside of the realm of art and literature, for example, when talking about morality or possibility.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • of prominent views of fictional discourse and its meaning.
  • of certain theories concerning the metaphysics of fictions and fictional objects.
  • of influential ‘fictionalist’ views, according to which, e.g., moral, religious, or modal discourse involve fictions of some sort.
  • of the arguments for and against these views and theories.
  • of the bearing of these issues on other areas of philosophy, for example, moral philosophy or the philosophy of mathematics, and on other areas of study, for example, literature.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • articulate your views and those of others clearly and carefully both orally and in writing.
  • analyse theories and identify their implications.
  • participate in debate in an even-handed fashion.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • interpret and extract information from a variety of sources.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • explain clearly and in detail accounts of fiction and of our engagement with it.
  • outline and evaluative critically the arguments for and against those accounts.
  • articulate and defend your own views relating to fiction and the philosophical issues it raises.
  • explore the bearing of the issues this module concerns on issues in other areas of study.


You can expect to explore topics such as: - Fictional characters - Fictional discourse - Truth in fiction - Serial fictions - The metaphysics of fiction - Varieties of fictionalism

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

- Weekly lectures - In-class discussion - Independent study

Independent Study117
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Mark Sainsbury (2009). Fiction and Fictionalism. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Examination  (90 minutes) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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