18 dic. 2009

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

From Metafiction, Patricia Waugh,UK, 1984.

Metafiction is a term given to 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. In providing a critique of their own methods of construction, such writings not only examine the fundamental structures of narrative fiction, they also explore the possible fictionality of the world outside the literary fictional text. (Waugh 2).
Spectrum: Metafiction is thus an elastic term which cover a wide range of fictions. There are those novels at one end of the spectrum which take fictionality as a theme to be explored whose formal self-consciousness is limited. At the center of this spectrum are those texts that manifest the symptoms of formal and ontological insecurity but allow their deconstructions to be finally recontextualized or 'naturalized' and given a total interpretation . . .Finally, at the furthest extreme that, in rejecting realism more thoroughly, posit the world as a fabrication of competing semiotic systems which never correspond to material conditions, ...(Waugh 18-19)

Patricia Waugh makes us point out the similarities among a selection of quotations and she lists three things readers would say:
A celebration of power of creative imagination together with an uncertainty about the validity of its representation
Literary form and the act of writing fictions
A parodic, playful, excessive or deceptively naive 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 status as an artifact 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 independent self-contained system which generates its own meanings. Its relationship to the phenomenal world is highly complex, problematic and regulated 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 the fiction

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.
The dilemma Metafiction sets out to explore: How is it possible to “describe” anything?
Hjelmslev developed the term “Metalanguage”: “Language which, instead of referring to non-linguistic events, situations or objects 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 relationship 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.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
Grendel by John Gardner
The Lime Twig by John Hawkes
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan

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:

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

Novel tradition
Metafictional writings
A well-made plot
Chronological sequence
Authoritative omniscient narrator
Rational connections
Atmosphere of certainty
The process of constructing the world is more important than the plot
Unimportance of sequence & details
Plurality of voices
Non rational connections
Atmosphere of uncertainty

17 nov. 2009


"All official institutions of language are repeating machines: school, sports, advertising, popular songs, news, all continually repeat the same structure, the same meaning, often the same words: the stereotype is a political fact, the major figure of ideology"

Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text (1975)

19 oct. 2009

It's all about the cookies!

A young lady was waiting for her flight in the boarding room of an airport. As she would need to wait many hours, she decided to buy a book to spend her time. She also bought a packet of cookies. She sat down in the VIP room of the airport, to rest and read in peace.

Beside the armchair where the packet of cookies lay, a man sat down in the next seat, opened his magazine and started reading. When she took out the first cookie, the man took one also. She felt irritated but said nothing. She just thought: “What a nerve! If I was in the mood I would punch him for daring!”

For each cookie she took, the man took one too. This was infuriating her but she didn’t want to cause a scene. When only one cookie remained, she thought: “…What will this abusive man do now?”

Then, the man, taking the last cookie, divided it into half, giving her one half. "Ah! That was too much!" She was much too angry now! In a huff, she took her book, her things and stormed to the boarding place.

When she sat down in her seat, inside the plane, she looked into her purse to take her eyeglasses, and, to her surprise, her packet of cookies was there, untouched, unopened!

She felt so ashamed!! She realized that she was wrong… She had forgotten that her cookies were kept in her purse.

The man had divided his cookies with her, without feeling angered or bitter…while she had been very angry, thinking that she was dividing her cookies with him. And now there was no chance to explain herself…nor to apologize.”

There are 4 things that you cannot recover:

The stone…after the throw!

The word…after it’s said!

The occasion…after the loss!

The time…after it’s gone!

3 feb. 2009

Tensions between private passions and social demands in The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Great Gastby by Scott Fiztgerald

Tensions between private passions and social demands in The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Great Gastby by Scott Fiztgerald

If we take into account our own life, we may often encounter several instances in which there is tension between our private passions and the social demands we have to face. This topic has been illustrated by so many novelists in their texts that even when it seems pretty simple at first sight, it hides many complexities. In order to portray the tension between private passions and social constraints, we are going to analyze Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Scott Fiztgerald’s The Great Gastby.

In the novel by Chopin, private passions and social demands and mostly comprised in the character of Edna. At first, she represents and ideal wife and then, because of her passion she turns into a rebel in society. At the beginning of Chopin’s novel, Edna struggles to keep appearances by organizing parties and trying to be a typical housewife, but little by little she realizes that that is not what she wants for her life, and she gets to a point in which “even her children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her”. In her process of “awakening” she finds out and recognizes “her relations as an individual to the world whitin and about her”. However, Edna’s awakening encounter many clashes between what her private wished represented when she awoke and what society expected from her. During this process that for many is seen as a “rebellion”, she gets to know Robert, who ends up being her lover. Robert also represents a tense situation for her between what she wantes and what she was supposed to do. Edna was married and had children, but she said she would give up the unessential for them but she was not prepared to give up herself. Edna’s passions were so strong that she even set aside not only her social duties but also her children, adding to this the fact that “there was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert!". For Edna, private passions were above everything else, even her children. She was willing to give everything to achieve them to the point ofcommiting suicide after realizing that society was not willing to accept her that way.

In the novel by Scott Fitzgerald, the tension between private passions and social constraints is mainly illustrated in the character of Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is Nick’s cousin (the narrator of the story). She is a beautiful youn lady who stands for the perfect housewife and the rich class who lives in East Egg. Daisy has chosen Tom to be her husband even though she had promised Jay she would marry him. After many years, Daisy and Jay get together again in a love affair. However, for Daisy Buchanan her social demands are more important than her private passions. She is not ready to give up her social status for Gay Gastby, even when she loves him. According to her, their love affair represents passion, curiosity, attraction but true love. For Gastby, Daisy is the woman he wants. He even gave his life for her when taking up the responsibility for having killed Mrs. Wilson with the car Daisy was driving. What is more, Daisy was not willing to make sacrifices since she moves houses after the incident even knowing that Gastby’s funeral was taking place. Daisy represents her class, her wealthy and the vices of the American society in the 20s. She strongly desires to keep appearances whenever she experiences the tensions between her private and social duties.

These two novels present different instances in which private needs exceed or go beyond social demands or constraints. However, it depends on how the author has constructed his/her character, the way his/her character would approach the topic. In the case of Chopin, she decided that the character of Edna would go deep into her soul and passions even if that meant her life. But in the case of Fitzgerald, he chose to depict a character interested in what society expected from her. Anyway, both characters, Edna and Daisy, were characterized as weak ones and in the end, none of them could stand their choices: Edna commited suicide, Daisy went back to normalcy.