Discussion paper from the working group on “Situational Fiction”

Mary Anne Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article takes the issue of epistemology in writing for (performance) art to ask: ‘What is the value of using “fictional” – as in “novelistic” – writing in reflective discourse on creative practice generally?’ Using Susan Sontag’s seminal essay ‘Against Interpretation’ as a starting point, the article argues that much writing on art assumes art’s ‘will-to-signify’ – its value as a form of meaning – and consequently ‘explanation’ as the purpose of art writing. The problems with this reflex are discussed, including its suppression of alternative responses, which may include acknowledging that art is an affective entity: it has a function (if, in Kant’s phrase, it is ‘without purpose’) and it has an ontology that may be more than its identity as signification. Extending, or restoring, the scope of art’s reflective discourse in this way, the paper also notes, via reference to George Steiner, that a reciprocal extension for the media of this discourse is also possible, and it seeks to map the two extensions as the axes of a grid that offers varied combinations of the content-form dimensions of art writing. One of these conjunctions produces ‘fictional writing’ as a possible response to art. Seeming to dispel the problem of reductionism in explanatory discourse, the article then goes on to argue that the use of fiction in the spaces of art writing – ‘Situational Fiction’ – may be valuable in other ways as well. Hence, this is an argument for knowledge of creative practice in creative form. But ‘Situational Fiction’ may pursue this ethos of ‘creative knowledge’ in another way as well: as its reflexive dimension implicates the reader in deciding whether any aspect of this academic paper designates this work as ‘fictional’, as the paper understands this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Writing in Creative Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


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