Fiction as Universal Truth


  • Rob van Gerwen Utrecht University (Editor-in-Chief)



truth to the world, truth to the author, truth to the work, literature, universal truth, fiction, Aristotle


Perhaps, a work of fiction’s truth is the unfaltering manner in which its details guide the spectator, reader or listener to the coherent whole of the work, and never disappoint their experience, or at least never for long. This view requires us to hold back the inclination to think of truth as short for the correspondence of some representation to something beyond itself, which is the normal way to view truth in real life, in journalism and in science. A work that is true to itself may be said to generate a particularist type of universal knowledge, like Aristotle characterised poetry at the expense of history in his Poetics.


Arbus, Diane. 2003. Revelations. New York: Random House.

Aristotle, Horace, Longinus. 1986. Classical Literary Criticism. Edited by T.S. Dorsch. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2003 (1956). Being and Nothingness. An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology. Translated by Hazel E. Barnes. New York and London: Routledge.

Wollheim, Richard. 2001. “On Pictorial Representation.” In Richard Wollheim on the Art of Painting. Art as Representation and Expression, edited by Rob van Gerwen, 13–27. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.