Friday, February 19, 2010
Terry has asked for a definition of creative nonfiction--and I'm sure a tie-in to Barfield would also be appreciated. "Creative nonfiction" is the latest name for what was called "literary journalism" in the 40s and beyond, when Norman Mailer and Truman Capote used novelistic techniques to report on true crime, with the effect of entertaining as well as exposing "the facts," such as they were seen to be. "Creative nonfiction" is prose whose narrative motive comes from things that have really happened, as opposed to fiction, where the narrative is imagined. An intriguing tie-in to Barfield and Lewis's "Great War" manifests itself here, since for Barfield (as for Coleridge), Imagination is as much "reality" as the materially validated, sensorially perceived world. In contrast, for Lewis (according to Barfield in "Lewis, Truth, and Imagination"), Imagination and "truth" were to be kept separate. The exquisite blurring of the line separating "literary/fictional truth" from "fact" has always fascinated me. Without pointing to a specific Barfield text, I will venture to claim that this blurred line--a function of formal techniques which developed with the novel and were superimposed over "historical fact," and which at one point were actually the source of a sort of shame (novels were bad, they sent people off to tilt at windmills)--represents a complex stage in the evolution of human consciousness whose development can be as profitably traced through literary history as Barfield says it can through etymology. Questions?