Humanities and Arts

Novel Assertions: A Reply to Mahon

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Doi: DOI:10.1093/aesthj/ayab017



In a recent paper, James Edwin Mahon (2019) argues that literary artworks—novels in particular—never lie because they do not assert. In this discussion note, I reject Mahon’s conclusion that novels never lie. I argue that a central premiss in his argument—that novels do not contain assertions—is false. Mahon’s account underdetermines the content of literary works; novels have rich layers of content and can contain what I call ‘profound’ assertions, and ‘background’ assertions. I submit that Mahon therefore fails to establish that novels never lie.