If Worlds Were Stories


  • Martin Klebes University of Oregon, German and Scandinavian




The metaphysics of possible worlds proposed by the analytic philosopher David K. Lewis offers an account of fictional discourse according to which possible worlds described in fiction are just as real as the actual world. In an inspired reversal of the analysis of literary fictions by such philosophical means, the French poet Jacques Roubaud makes direct reference to Lewis’ controversial ontological picture in two cycles of elegies composed between 1986 and 1990. Roubaud’s poems take up the idea of possible worlds as real entities, and at the same time they challenge the notion that philosophy could offer an account of fiction in which the puzzling collision of the possible with the impossible that fundamentally characterizes the phenomenon of fictionality would be seamlessly unravelled. For Roubaud the lyrical genre of the elegy and its thematic concern with love and death stands as a prime indicator of the quandary that results from our inability to solve paradoxes of modality such as those raised by Lewis in strictly theoretical terms.

Author Biography

Martin Klebes, University of Oregon, German and Scandinavian

Martin Klebes received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literary Studies from Northwestern University in 2003, and is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of German and Scandinavian at the University of Oregon. He is the author of Wittgenstein’s Novels (Routledge, 2006) and the translator of Ernst-Wilhelm Händler’s debut collection of stories, City with Houses (Northwestern University Press, 2002). Book chapters and journal articles he has recently published include pieces on W.G. Sebald, on Wilhelm Dilthey, and on the aesthetics of Kant and Schiller.




How to Cite

Klebes, M. (2010). If Worlds Were Stories. Konturen, 2(1), 124–150. https://doi.org/10.5399/uo/konturen.2.1.1346