Hi there! Welcome to this posting that you are now reading on my blog. Thank you for joining me to quench your curiosity about Metafiction, which is fiction that deliberately goes out of its way to make the reader aware they are experiencing a work of fiction.
Metafiction as a literary field celebrates and comments on the creative process by exposing its innermost workings, while delving into existential issues. William Gass has received credit for first coining the term back in the 1970s in his “Philosophy and the Future of Fiction,” in which he describes metafiction as an “analysis of what fiction has already done in certain areas, which allows us to perceive what fiction was all along” (7). In other words, metafictions reference and seek to break down the familiar structures established by other fictional works to learn more about the construction of fiction as a whole. They refuse to take any literary device for granted (such as the use of narrative prose, or the use of the third-person perspective) by subverting or reflecting upon them.
Basically, metafiction involves fictions that are about fiction, and which then examines how our use of fiction relates to our construction of reality; what we classify as objective or subjective facts, among similar concerns.
Since Gass coined the term, several scholars have sought to explore the possibilities of metafiction in greater depth along the abovementioned lines. Among them, I would argue for Patricia Waugh’s Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction is a seminal work, since she does a solid job of describing the development and applications of metafiction in contemporary literary thought. Saying that metafiction is a means to examine how people approach the construction of reality can sound somewhat vague, but Waugh provides many great examples of metafiction at work. For instance, at one point Waugh discusses fictions that revisit specific historical moments from the perspective of other characters—such as those representing individuals from minority groups whose voices may have gotten overlooked or suppressed in historical accounts; this is a branch of metafiction that Waugh calls, “historiographic metafiction.”
Another example of metafiction in action is the film Strange than Fiction, direct by Marc Foster, which revolves around a male character launched into an existential crisis after he begins to hear the narration of his author. Realizing the construction nature of his life (as a tax agent defined by an adherence to routine), he seeks to develop his own identity and avoid the tragic plotline planned by his author. What metafiction then does, in this case, is highlight the importance and influence fiction holds in our lives. We might not start hearing the voice of a narrator at any moment, or realize we’re in a story, but there are particular social norms or narratives that we do stick to in our daily lives (like someone who might feel they have no control over her or his life in working as a tax agent, with all its conventions and expectations).
As Jason Bellipanni writes in The Naked Truth, Fiction about Fiction: A Concise Guide to Metafiction, “The idea that reality is constructed implies that it is made up of both fact and fiction. Reality is a compilation of both, a fusion of those bits of information which were once so decidedly labelled and categorized” (144). In other words, Stranger than Fiction emphasizes that even in the most realistic circumstances, what individuals perceive as reality is really a construction of various experiences and perspectives.
In many ways then, metafiction explores both fiction and reality.
Bellipanni, Jason. The Naked Story Fiction About Fiction: A Concise Guide to Metafiction.
Story Review Press, 2013.
Gass, William. “Philosophy and the Future of Fiction.” Syracuse Scholar, vol. 1, no. 2, 1980.
http://www.surface.syr.edu/suscholar/vol1/iss2/3. Accessed 1 May 2015.
Stranger than Fiction. Directed by Marc Foster, performances by Will Ferrell, Maggie
Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Emma Thompson, Mandate Pictures,
Waugh, Patricia. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. Routledge,