The Sobering

Delusions of Authenticity and Relaity in Philip Roth

  • Frank Chouraqui Leiden University
Keywords: Double, Self-Delusion, Philip Roth, Metaphysics of Fiction, Realism


This article argues that a common trope in Philip Roth’s fictions is focused on a process of sobering, which involves the challenges of overcoming delusions of authenticity. These delusions come in two forms, either self-identity or self-imitation. In both cases, this leads to existential aporias. The healthy response according to Roth is to overcome the common presupposition shared by these two failed approaches to the self. It is a matter of overcoming realism about the self and about the world. This overcoming takes the form of engagement with fiction, both as an author, as a character and as a person. As a result, the central delusion that motivates the trajectory of Roth’s characters could be understood as a form of self-deception, since it involves the literary self misconstruing itself as an object to be satisfied, attained and fulfilled.