This post is not one of my usual musical musings but rather looks at literature to ask, to what extent the credibility and believability of a work is affected by the our knowledge of its source material.
Let us begin with fiction, which the oxford English dictionary defines as: “ that which is invented or untrue”. What I wish to consider here is the probability of someone being able to create something purely independent of themselves. Any thought, idea or scenario available to you, cannot be independent of you who is therefore the medium through which it has come to exist. Although what is produced may not appear to have come from the individual who created it, due to its seemingly removed nature, it is possibly a reinterpretation of something previously experienced. In this way nothing can be truly fictional to the creator of the work, in the sense that it can never be completely untrue or invented to those who have experienced the actual roots of these “fictional” ideas. The question I wish to raise here is, does the knowledge that the fictional events of a book stem from reality, damped our enjoyment and ability to “be carried away” by the story? If all fictional works were traced back to their origins, in the minds of their makers, they would no longer provide an escape from reality. They would merely show a reinterpretation of the human psyche. This would allow that fiction which previously inspired dreams, through its distance from the reality, would now be viewed as an internal coping mechanism of the mind to deal with emotional stress.
This process of transference is often used in psychoanalysis to trace the emotional path of an individual back to key life events.Transference was defined by Freud to be the repetition of the individuals earliest emotional relations, although it can be elaborated to refer to the movement of any significant emotion from one place to another in order that it might be expressed.Since it is proven that the brain does this with emotion, it is not so far to assume that the same cycle may occur with ideas or experience.
Let us now have an example of where transference might ruin the credibility of a work of a different nature:
A philosopher puts forward the suggestion of a new social model which favours the weakest members of society, allowing them superiority over the strong. He reasons that act of elevating these members would in fact raise the overall standard of society. This idea targets the problem of inequality and aims to eradicate the notion of “survival of the fittest” by proposing an alternative method towards a more productive society. Everyone loves it. So there is no problem…right ?
But wait. What if it emerged that this particular philosopher had been horrifically bullied as a child and that as a result of this he maintained a lifelong resentment to figures of power, such as those who had loomed over him. Is his theory now viewed in a different light? The focus is no longer on this idea as an independent thought but rather as a transference of emotional trauma; a biased view. Does the inclusion of personal information taint the purity of the philosopher’s theory? I think it does. The pairing of literature and philosophy with their human origins seems to impact our enjoyment and respect for them. We like the illusion these works create as they appear completely unaffected by life, creating a purity of meaning which exists independent of the world we know.