18 dic. 2009

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

From Metafiction, Patricia Waugh,UK, 1984.
WHAT IS METAFICTION?

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.

NOVELS EXPLORE THE THEORY OF FICTION
THROUGH THE PRACTICE OF WRITING FICTION.

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.

Examples:
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:
CONSTRUCTION OF AN ILLUSION

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