Suspension of disbelief
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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.
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.”
- Aestheticization of violence
- Deus ex machina
- Dramatic convention
- 555 (telephone number)
- Paradox of fiction
- Fourth wall
- Suspension of judgment
- The Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis
- Verisimilitude (literature)