Real Characters

This piece was published in The Point Magazine in January 2020. It shows how modern academic literary criticism came to accept as dogmatic the the idea that one must not treat characters as if they were real. It also shows that this taboo prevents us from understanding what is going on in the recent “existential turn”: writing in which characters are supposed to come across as real, ranging from Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle books to Elena Ferrante’s intensely psychological and historical Naples quartet. The essay is based on and continues work I did in Character: Three Inquiries in Literary Studies co-written with Rita Felski and Amanda Anderson (Chicago, 2019).

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