21 ago. 2008




In order to analyze metafictional characteristics in Chapter 13 of “The French Lieutenant's Woman” by John Fowles, it is necessary to define two important concepts: Postmodernism and Metaficion. Postmodernism, is a movement that emerged in the 1960’s whose main ideas were related to the rejection of boundaries between high and low forms of art, the rejection of genre distinctions, an emphasis on pastiche, parody, bricolage, irony, and playfulness. Lyotard adds to this idea the fact that, during modernity all aspects of modern societies, including science, depended on these grand narratives. Postmodernism then is the critique of grand narratives, the awareness that such narratives serve to mask the contradictions and instabilities that are inherent to any social organization or practice. As a consequence, minorities emerged showing a situational, provisional, and temporary, truth, reason, or stability giving birth to many genres within Postmodernism, among which we can find Metafiction. Patricia Waugh provides the following definition of the term: "fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality". Metafictional works, she says, are those that "explore a theory of writing fiction through the practice of writing fiction".

Chapter 13 begins "I do not know. This story I am telling is all imagination. These characters I create never existed outside my mind”. In this short passage we can cleraly see one of the metafictional characteristics throguh which the author challenges the traditionl roles of the author and the reader. This is related to the authorial intimacy that the author posses, he intrudes comments in order to destroy the illusion of reality and blur the lines between fiction and reality. Another characteristict Fowles uses is the dramatization of the reader. He addresses the reader so as to make him / her aware of his / her role as player in his novel. For instance, when he says “You may think novelists always have fixed plans...” his addressing directly the reader. Furthermore, he also says “If you think that, hypocrite lecteur, I can only smile...” playing not only with the idea of addressing the reader but also with the idea of intertextuality ("The Flowers of Evil" by Jean Baudelaire-1857).

On the one hand, John Fowles considers himself a Victorian 'omniscient narrator', but he intrudes in his fiction and gives characters restricted freedom since he also gives them commands like: “When Charles left Sarah on her cliff edge, I ordered him to walk straight back to Lyme Regis”. He also uses parody when writing in the manner of Victorian writers did. He re-visits the past and shows himself like “god” writer like in Victorian times but he ends up giving freedom to his novel: “The novelist is still a god, since he creates (...) What has changed is that we are no longer the Gods of the Victorian image, omniscient and decreeing...”. On the other hand, he keeps an epigraph on each of his chapters as Victorian writers did. In Chapter 13, Fowles also talks about Postmodernism and Lyotard’s idea of the fall of the grand narratives and the idea that such narratives serve to mask the contradictions and instabilities of past dicourses: “So if you think all this unlucky digression has nothing to do with your Time, Progress, Society, Evolution and all those capitalized ghosts...”.

All in all, in Chapter 13 of “The French Lieutenant's Woman” by John Fowles, we can clearly see how the autor had employed all the resources and techniques that Postmodernism offered. He questioned the relationship between fiction and reality, he challenged the tradicional roles of autor ad reader, he had also payed homage to some of the techniques used by Victorian writers by employing them in his novel. Finally, he has invited the reader to play the role of a detective, to make him or her part of his fiction.

16 ago. 2008

Metafiction and the Novel Tradition - Patricia Waugh

"What is Metafiction and why are they saying such awful things about it?"

From Metafiction, Patricia Waugh,UK, 1984.

Patricia Waugh makes us point out the similarities amongst a selection of quotations and she lists three things readers would say:

A celebration of power of creative imagination together with an uncertainity about the validity of its representation

Literary form and the act of writing fictions

A parodic, playful, excessive or deceptively naíve style of writing.

But, the reader is offering a description of the concerns and characteristics of the fiction, so the term “Metafiction” needs to be defined:

“Metafiction is a term given to a fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its satus as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship of fiction to reality”

So, Waugh claims that such writings not only examine the fundamental structure of narrative fiction, they also explore the possible fictionality of the world outside the literary fictional text


Metafiction poses questions through its formal self-exploration, drawing on the traditional metaphor of the world as book.

Consequently, if our knowledge of the world (as individuals) is now seen to be mediated through language, then literary fiction becomes a useful model for learning about the construction of “reality” itself.

According to Waugh, “Language is an independant self-contained system which generates its own meanings. Its realtionship to the phenomenal world is highly complex, problematic and regulted by convention. Meta terms, therefore, are required in order to explore the relationship between this arbitrary linguistic system and the world to which it apparently refers”.

World OF fiction = World OUTSIDE fiction

The dilemma Metafiction sets out to explore: How is it possible to “describe” anything?

If the writer sets out to “represent” the world, he or she would realize that the world as such, cannot be “represented”. They can only “represent” the DISCOURSES of that world.

Hjelmslev deveolped the term “Metalanguage”: “Language which, instead of referring to non-linguistic events, situations or obejcts in the world, refers to another language: it is a language which takes another as its objects”.

In Saussure’s terms, a “metalanguage” is a language that functions as a signifier to another language, and this other language becomes its signified.

So, in the process of writing, what is explored is the problematic realtionship between life and fiction.

Metafiction pays attention to particular conventions of the novel by which the process of its construction is displayed. Novels attempt to create alternative linguistic structures or fictions which imply the old forms by encouraging the reader to draw on his or her knowledge of traditional literary conventions when struggling to construct a meaning for the new text.

Metafiction and the novel tradition

Patricia Waugh argues that, “… the term “Metafiction” might be new, the practice is as old (if not older) than the novel itself…metafiction is a tendency or function inherent in all novels”

Novels are constructed on the principle of fundamental and sustained opposition:


This is done so, in order to create a fiction and to make a statement about the creation of that fiction. Writers feel that any attempt to represent reality an only produce selective perspectives.

As a consequence of this, more and more novelists question and reject forms that correspond to ordered reality:

Novel tradition

A well-made plot

Chronological sequence

Authoritative omniscient narator

Rational connections

Atmosphere of certainty

Metafictional writings

The process of constructing the world is more important than the plot

Unimportance of sequence & details

Non rational connections

Plurality of Voices

Atmosphere of uncertainity