chapter  8
16 Pages

Solipsism and Utopia: Fredric Brown, Charles Yu,

WithLudwig Wittgenstein

Although “solipsism” might seem to be a rare word, one unfamiliar to people outside of the fields of philosophy or psychology, the MLA International Bibliography-which indexes articles about literature-reveals (at the time of this writing) 142 books or articles with the keyword “solipsism,” and 47 with “solipsistic.” This is perhaps no longer an arcane or recondite concept; in fact, many literary critics in the last decade are finding it a helpful construct through which to look at fiction and our lives. As might be expected, many of the works such literary critics write about thematize solipsism. For example, Arlen Hansen, in “The Celebration of Solipsism: A New Trend in American Fiction” looks at writers such as Richard Brautigan, William Gass, and Robert Coover. He emphasizes how the figures in these novels embrace a solipsism that engages and encourages the creative “act of making [one’s] own, new stories.”1 Other critics, such as Harold Kaplan, see as less positive the solipsistic bent of many literary characters, such as those in the novels of Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Conrad (Nostromo and Lord Jim), Joyce (The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man), Faulkner (Sound and the Fury), and Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea).