Suspension of disbelief  

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This page Suspension of disbelief is part of the fiction series.Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
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This page Suspension of disbelief is part of the fiction series.
Illustration: Screenshot from A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Suspension of disbelief is an aesthetic theory intended to characterize people's relationships to art. It was coined by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 (Chapter 14 of Biographia Literaria) to refer to what he called "dramatic truth," or the way a reader is implicitly “asked” to set aside his notions of reality and accept the dramatic conventions of the theater and stage or other fictional work. Coleridge writes:

". . . My endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith"

Today, the notion refers to the alleged willingness of a reader or viewer to accept as true the premises of a work of fiction, even if they are fantastic, impossible, or otherwise contradictory to "reality". It also refers to the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium, so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises. According to the theory, suspension of disbelief is a quid pro quo: the audience tacitly agrees to provisionally suspend their judgment in exchange for the promise of entertainment.

Although Suspension of Disbelief is pervasively referenced by critics — particularly film critics — most aesthetic philosophers reject it in favor of realism.

Cette belle suspension d’esprit

Coleridge may have been inspired by the French phrase, “cette belle suspension d’esprit de law sceptique” from François La Mothe Le Vayer , or by Ben Jonson’s writing where Jonson notes, “To many things a man should owe but a temporary belief, and suspension of his own judgment.”

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Suspension of disbelief" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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