The Sources of Fiction?

The sociology of information overlaps (or, in a grandiose moment, subsumes) the sociology of knowledge and related fields. In this corner of its sandbox, we find topics such as considerations of authorship, authority, information “ownership,” and provenance as well as how much meta-information must/should attach to a given information “emission.” In today’s NYT JULIE BOSMAN reports on a contemporary phenomenon of interest: the inclusion of bibliographies in works of fiction.

Multiple issues on the table: blurring genre lines between fiction and nonfiction; legal concerns (see Hadfield on lexigenesis); intimidating readers vs. impressing them (marketing); getting credit for hard work (authors); naive claim that authors who include bibliography do do research, others do not; padding bibliographies to look sophisticated; what counts as “a lot of reading”?; divergence of purpose — suggesting to readers where they can go for more vs. documenting where ideas came from. Bosman sees continuity between emergence of acknowledgements in fiction (apparently a relatively recent thing) and bibliographies and compares them to Oscar thank you speeches. In addition to hinting that both are a sort of potlatch of back patting and such, this nicely captures the contradictory pulls between humble recognition that one does not do it alone and attempts to impress by attaching oneself to other stars.

Works Cited

Bosman, Julie. 2006. “Loved His New Novel, and What a Bibliography.” New York Times, 5 December 2006.

Hadfield, Gillian. n.d. “Lexigenesis.” Unpublished manuscript.

Author: Dan Ryan

I've been an Academic Program Director at, a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. My current mission is to figure out how to reorganize higher education and exploit technology so that we can teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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