This introductory chapter presents the theoretical background of the book, which aims to study the relationship between literature and life. It identifies a tension that exists between two intuitions: one is the humanist intuition, which is concerned with the social and cognitive value of literature, and says that literature offers a window on our world; the other intuition concerns how we understand the fiction that goes into a work of literary fiction. It argues that the humanist intuition can sit quite comfortably with those theories of literature commonly taken to reveal its implausibility. And so a properly developed theory of humanism, far from demanding that we abandon standard ways of speaking about the nature of literary fiction, can be seen as offering a significant and attractive addition to the various critical and theoretical vocabularies we already possess. An overview of the chapters in this book is then presented.
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