International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Journal | Issue | Article

The cognitive value of modernist literature

Ricoeur's conception of productive imagination reconsidered

Leen Verheyen

pp. 161-175

When debating the cognitive value of the novel, philosophers often focus on the resemblance between real and fictional world. Therefore, it is a hardly surprising that modernist literature, such as Franz Kafka’s novels, are rarely used as examples to support claims about the novel’s cognitive value. In my paper, I therefore offer a starting point for the development of a theory on the novel’s cognitive value that also works for modernist literature by building on Paul Ricoeur’s conception of productive imagination. Starting from a case study of a short story of Kafka, I develop an account of the novel’s cognitive value that is based on the tension between the literary work’s invitation to interpretation and its simultaneous resistance against interpretation.

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