The pleasures of literary hoaxing

Hua Hsu in The Boston Globe:

HoaxesThe most fascinating aspect of hoaxes is the extent to which they tend to escape the control of their creators, absorbing new accomplices along the way. As McHale observed in a recent interview, literary hoaxes are ”cut loose from their source, or outright lie about it, and so float free, in a certain sense, so that they can be reclaimed further down the line and used for all sorts of unintended purposes.”

But not all hoaxes are created equal, and McHale cautions against seeing them all through the same moral lens. He identifies three types, each with their own ethical consequences: ”genuine hoaxes,” ”entrapment hoaxes,” and ”mock-hoaxes.”

Genuine hoaxes are those that are unleashed with no hope of ever being exposed: These are the literary equivalents of forged paintings. In 1764, Horace Walpole published ”The Castle of Otranto” under the pretense that it was a recently discovered 16th-century manuscript recounting a story that dated back to the Crusades. Walpole was exposed as its author and forced to apologize, though ”Otranto” endures as a seminal moment of Gothic literature.

More here.