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Metafiction

From Academic Kids

Metafiction is a kind of fiction which self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction. It usually involves irony and is self-reflective. It can be compared to presentational theatre in a sense; presentational theatre does not let the audience forget they are viewing a play, and metafiction does not let the readers forget they are reading a work of fiction. Metafiction is primarily associated with postmodern literature but can be found at least as far back as Cervantes' Don Quixote and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It came to prominence in the early 60's through such authors as John Barth, Robert Coover, and William H. Gass. The classic examples from the time include: Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse", Coover's "The Babysitter" and "The Magic Poker", and Gass' Willie Master's Lonesome Wife.

Some common metafictive devices include:

  • A novel about a person writing a novel.
  • A novel about a person reading a novel.
  • A story that addresses the specific conventions of story, such as title, paragraphing or plots.
  • A non-linear novel, which can be read in some order other than beginning to end.
  • Narrative footnotes, which continue the story while commenting on it.
  • A novel in which the author is a character.
  • A story that anticipates the reader's reaction to the story.
  • Characters who do things because those actions are what they would expect from characters in a story.
  • Characters who express awareness that they are in a work of fiction.

Metafiction may figure for only a moment in a story, as when "Roger" makes a brief appearance in Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, or it may be central to the work, as in Tristram Shandy.

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