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Fictional communication: developing Gregory Bateson's “Theory of Play and Fantasy”

Christine Angela Knoop (University College London, UK)

Kybernetes

ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 14 August 2007

Abstract

Purpose

To supplement Gregory Bateson's theory with findings from literary studies and attempt a new take on literary communication.

Design/methodology/approach

On the basis of Gregory Bateson's “Theory of play and fantasy” the transmission of messages between author and readers is investigated. After that, it is attempted to show the particularities of literary messages and their communication, including different literary levels of what Bateson calls the “frame” of a message. The elements discussed include creativity, tension, surprise, Coleridge's notion of “the willing suspension of disbelief” in reading fiction and emotional response.

Findings

While messages usually contain signs referring to an existing range of object representations, literary texts depart from and expand this range. The term “message” is subject to shift. The creativity of both author and readers allows a level of innovation that alters Bateson's categories: the metacommunicative level is not necessarily denoted by the message itself, and the metalinguistic level is adjusted to allow creativity that is existential for fiction writing and reading.

Research limitations/implications

Trying to give a schematic introduction, this paper is rather an overview than an in‐depth study.

Originality/value

This paper discusses a part of Bateson's approach in the light of findings in literary theory and thus helps to create an interdisciplinary dialogue that makes both sides' achievements, respectively, accessible.

Keywords

Citation

Angela Knoop, C. (2007), "Fictional communication: developing Gregory Bateson's “Theory of Play and Fantasy”", Kybernetes, Vol. 36 No. 7/8, pp. 1113-1121. https://doi.org/10.1108/03684920710777900

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited