Metafiction

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For the album by Vic Mignogna, see Metafiction (album).

Metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work's status as an artifact. It poses questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually using irony and self-reflection. It can be compared to presentational theatre, which does not let the audience forget it is viewing a play; metafiction forces readers to be aware that they are reading a fictional work.

History[edit]

Metafiction is primarily associated with Modernist literature and Postmodernist literature, but is found at least as early as Homer's Odyssey and Chaucer's 14th century Canterbury Tales. Cervantes' Don Quixote, published in the 17th century, is a metafictional novel and so is James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner published in 1824. The novels of Brian O'Nolan, written under the nom de plume Flann O'Brien, are considered to be examples of metafiction. In the 1950s several French novelists published works whose styles were collectively dubbed "nouveau roman". These "new novels" were characterized by the bending of genre and style and often included elements of metafiction. It became prominent in the 1960s, with authors and works such as John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse, Robert Coover's "The Babysitter" and "The Magic Poker", Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 and William H. Gass's Willie Master's Lonesome Wife. William H. Gass coined the term "metafiction" in a 1970 essay entitled "Philosophy and the Form of Fiction". Unlike the antinovel, or anti-fiction, metafiction is specifically fiction about fiction, i.e. fiction which self-consciously reflects upon itself.[1]

Devices[edit]

Common metafictive devices in literature include:

According to Patricia Waugh "all fiction is . . . implicitly metafictional," since all works of literature are concerned with language and literature itself.[2] Some elements of metafiction are similar to devices used in metafilm techniques.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Engler, Burnd (17 December 2004). "Metafiction". The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  2. ^ Waugh, Patricia (1988). Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-conscious Fiction. New York: Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 0-415-03006-4. 

Further reading[edit]