Fictions at Work

Language and Social Life in Fiction (Longman, 1995)

talbot_fictionsatworkThis book explores how fiction works in the constitution and reproduction of social life. It does not reduce fiction to a functional support for ideology, however, but considers that the greatest interest in fiction is as a source of pleasure. It discusses both ‘high’ and ‘low’ fiction, combining discussion of social context with language analysis. Taking a view of fiction as a product of social practices, the book examines not only the texts themselves but also what people do with them and how they are valued. Fictions at work will be of interest to students on a variety of courses including linguistics, English, women’s studies, cultural studies, and media and communication studies.

Available here.

Chapter Contents:

Part I Fiction as social practice
1 What is fiction?
Fiction and reality
Voices in the text
About this book
2 Discourses, readers, genres
Text versus discourse
Subject positioning of readers in fiction
Discourse, discouse-type, order of discourse
Fiction and social reproduction: centres and margins
Summary of discourse and genre
Taking it further
3. Intertextuality and text population
Forms of intertextuality
Prior text
Summing up
Example 1: extracts from Conrad’s Heart of darkness
Voices in the text: a text population
Examining a text population: features to focus on
Example 2: an extract from Eliot’s Middlemarch
Taking it further

Part II Fiction and social reproduction
4 Escaping into romance
‘Would you really marry me and live in Yorkshire?’: Mills & Boon’s stories of gender and class
Characters and situations
The text populations in the opening of No gentleman
No gentleman as a ‘declarative’ text
The ‘timebomb’
Escaping into acceptance
‘I hope this has been a lesson to you’: Male authority in photo-stories for teenagers
The text population in ‘It’s my nasty mind’
Learning to live
Taking it further
5 Confronting horror
The notoriety of horror fiction
‘It felt good to kill’: Schoolboy dreams in the novels of James Herbert
The text population in an extract from Lair
‘It’s regrettable, but that’s how it is’
Subtler horrors
Conclusion: horror fiction and containment
Taking it further

Part III Fiction and social change
6 Fiction and empowerment
Old books, new readings
Disrupting generic character and situation types
Taking it further
7 Feminist science fiction
Making the familiar strange
Language reform
Utopian visions
Embracing otherness
Taking it further

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