Dr. Laurence Browne

There are many books out there on coincidences, as well as a number of theories as to what they might or might not mean, from the law of very large numbers to Jung’s hypothesis of synchronicity.  Considerably less, however, has been written about the many ways in which coincidence manifests in fiction.  There have been very different literary attitudes to coincidence over time, and one can trace its evolution from the fatalism of Ancient Greece to the ‘providential tradition’ of the Victorian era, where the good are rewarded with positive coincidences and outcomes as visible signs of God’s approval. This approach has largely been dispensed with since the advent of widespread secularism in the 20th century. However, the use of coincidences by authors of all types of fiction has continued unabated. 

Indeed, there is a Chinese saying, ‘no coincidence, no story’, and one of the aims of this presentation is to examine just how close to the mark this is.  While the material available for coincidence analysis is far vaster than the very few examples that can be covered in the time allotted, by the end of the presentation the extent to which coincidences are used in fiction should become clear. What all this points to is that just as coincidences are an integral part of the fabric of everyday life, so too are they an integral part of the fabric of fiction.



Forgan Smith
Room 01-E356