Meaningful Coincidence in Fiction and Anecdote

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Meaningful Coincidence in Fiction and Anecdote

A presentation by Laurence Browne

Thursday, November 4, 2021 7.30pm - 9.30pm
Venue: St Mary’s Anglican Church Hall
455 Main St. Kangaroo Point, QLD 4169
Admission: Members & Concession: $10 • Non-members: $15

Pepino and his donkey visiting the tomb of St Francis of Assisi. (Illustration from The Small Miracle by Paul Gallico)

While coincidences in fiction are everywhere, especially in how storylines are constructed, they are less common when it comes to depicting the potentially life-changing experiences of synchronicity, the term coined by C. G. Jung for meaningful coincidences. One author, however, who made regular use of synchronistic events in his work was the popular novelist and short story writer Paul Gallico, and examples from his stories will be given in this presentation. Juxtaposed against meaningful coincidences in fiction are those to be found in anecdotes arising out of actual events. These are generally short depictions which, unlike much of fiction, get straight to the point and can be very striking indeed. It is perhaps unfair to compare the two genres as they are distinct, though not entirely so—especially when it comes to the short stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer, many of which seem to dwell at the intersection of the two.

Also mentioned in this talk is the ‘trickster’ figure, found the world over in myths and legends. Synchronistic events commonly have a trickster quality about them: a shock of the unexpected and a revelation of direct insight in the face of paradox. One fascinating example is Eshu, a trickster deity from the Yoruba of West Africa, who is described by Robert Pelton, author of The Trickster in West Africa, as ‘pure synchronicity’.

Laurence Browne has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Queensland, where he is an Honorary Research Fellow within the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry. He is the author of The Many Faces of Coincidence, published in 2017 by Imprint Academic, Exeter, U.K.