Robert Scholes  

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"Fact and fiction are old acquaintances. They are both derivatives of Latin words. Fact comes from facere--to make or do. Fiction comes from fingere--to make or shape." --Elements of Fiction (1968), Robert Scholes

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Robert E. Scholes (May 19, 1929 - December 9, 2016) was an American literary critic and theorist. He is known for his ideas on fabulation and metafiction. He also wrote the preface to The Fantastic by Tzvetan Todorov.

He graduated from Yale University. Since 1970, he has been a Professor at Brown University.

With Eric S. Rabkin, he published in 1977 the book Science Fiction: History, Science, Vision, which considerably influenced science fiction studies. In it, they attempt to explain the literary history of the genre, but also the sciences such as physics and astronomy.

Scholes became well known as a cogent guide to literary theory and semiotics as they became influential in U.S. literary studies in the 1970s and 1980s. His 1982 book Semiotics and Interpretation was praised in the Times Literary Supplement as offering "a clutch of examples of semiotics usefully and intelligently applied, which Scholes's patient, cheerful tone and his resolutely concrete vocabulary manage to combine into a breezily informative American confection."

Scholes holds honorary doctorates from Lumière University Lyon 2, France, (1987) and SUNY Purchase (2003). He is a past president of the Semiotic Society of America (1989–1990) and of the Modern Language Association of America (2004).

Scholes was the director of the Modernist Journals Project. In his collaboration with Clifford Wulfman, Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction (2010), Scholes offers a primer on early twentieth-century magazines, with particular attention given to the relationship of advertising to editorial content.


  • Approaches to the Novel (1961), editor
  • The Cornell Joyce Collection: A Catalogue (1961), editor
  • The Fabulators (1967)
  • Elements of Poetry (1969)
  • Structuralism in Literature (1974)
  • Structural Fabulation: An Essay on Fiction of the Future (University of Notre Dame Press, 1975)
  • Science Fiction: History, Science, Vision with Eric S. Rabkin
  • Fabulation and Metafiction (1979)
  • Semiotics and Interpretation (1982)
  • Textual Power (1985)
  • Protocols of Reading (1989)
  • In Search of James Joyce (1992)
  • Elements of Fiction (1995), translation of a work first published in Japanese
  • The Rise and Fall of English: Reconstructing English as a Discipline (1998)
  • The Crafty Reader (2001)
  • Paradoxy of Modernism (2006)
  • Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction (2010) with Clifford Wulfman

Documentary Film

  • Andries van Dam: Hypertext: an Educational Experiment in English and Computer Science at Brown University. Brown University, Providence, RI, U.S. 1974, Run time 15:16

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