Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2013

Document Type




First Advisor

Annjeanette Wiese


This thesis explores the recent dissolution of generic boundaries that has destabilized the distinctive qualities of fiction and nonfiction in the postmodern age. I undertook this project in an attempt to address a paradox found within contemporary literature—the paradox that exists when a work presents itself as both fiction and nonfiction or as an entity outside of this duality. I approach the conflict represented by this paradox by first addressing the formative processes and critical environment that shaped it as an issue in contemporary culture. Within this contemporary critical environment—characterized by the destabilization of traditional generic boundaries—there is a tension that exists between two fundamental theoretical positions. One side wants the certainty and simplicity of fiction and nonfiction’s past distinguishability, while the other side wants, or decried as necessary, a problematized view of fiction and nonfiction that allows for a greater diversity of expression in a work’s relationship with reality. This thesis seeks to engage with this problem by proposing a model of generic justification that allows for multiple ways of understanding generic identity. The model distinguishes between a conventional understanding (fiction and nonfiction), a rhetorical understanding (fictionality and nonfictionality), and a referential understanding (fictivity and reality). In doing so this model both retains and resolves the newfound indeterminacy of fiction and nonfiction. My hope is that with this model of generic justification a wide variety of theoretical and practical positions will be able to find expression in contemporary narratives by providing a terminology capable of categorizing a given work unequivocally as either fiction or nonfiction, as well as providing a continuum of fictionality and nonfictionality capable of expressing the generic indeterminacy valued by postmodernism. I conclude this thesis with a set of original narratives designed to explicate and test the theoretical program I put forth.