Some fictional narratives seem to be more theoretical than others. Sometimes writers seem to choose consciously between fiction and the dry abstractions of a theoretical work. Proust is a good example. At the start of his manuscript notebooks for A la recherche du temps perdu he poses the question, ‘Should this be turned into a novel, a philosophical essay?’ If fiction is sometimes a better vehicle for ideas than the essay, it is fiction with theoretical intent or theoretical fiction. There have always been philosophers and historians who have forsaken theoretical discourse for the advantages of fiction, for its subtle mechanisms of persuasion, for its ability to explore ideas or historical forces as they are lived by individuals. Sometimes it is exactly the imprecision of narrative fiction which appeals, as when Sartre turned to the novel to express ideas which escaped systematic knowledge. Literary theory has seen the same kind of defection.
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