Nonfictionality, Function, and Salience

Focusing on different treatments of the same nonfictional entity, Huntington’s disease, in two global fictions, Ian McEwan’s Saturday (2005) and Lisa Genova’s Inside the O’Briens (2015), this paper seeks to understand the affective, ethical, and aesthetic dimensions of crucial problematic moments in each. It deploys the concepts of status (fictional, nonfictional, or a blurring of the two), function (how does the particular element contribute to the larger narrative purpose) and salience (how significant is that function for that larger purpose) in order unpack the rhetorical logic of those passages. This unpacking leads to a more positive view of McEwan’s construction of Saturday than the one offered by many of McEwan’s previous critics as well as a general defense of Genova’s construction of Inside the O’Briens. More generally, the essay offers new insights into the interaction of local nonfiction and global fiction

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