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The University of Southampton

PHIL3042 Fiction and Fictionalism

Module Overview

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.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

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

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • articulate your views and those of others clearly and carefully.
  • 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.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics may include: - Fictional characters - Fictional discourse - Truth in fiction - Serial fictions - The metaphysics of fiction - Varieties of fictionalism

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Lectures - In-class discussion - One-on-one consultation with module co-ordinator Learning activities include - Attending classes - Contribution to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed work

Independent Study117
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Mark Sainsbury (2009). Fiction and Fictionalism. 



Draft essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Essay 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Essay 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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