Literary Theories: Metafiction

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Metafiction is a literary theory that is present in several works of literature. According to the Oxford English Dictionary metafiction is, “Fiction in which the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work by parodying or departing from novelistic conventions (esp. naturalism) and narrative techniques; a fictional work in this genre or style.” In other words, Metafiction is exclusively fiction within fiction, or when the writer self-consciously reflects the writing upon itself. It uses both theory and criticism and creates biographies of imaginary writers. Metafiction is closely related to presentational theatre, metafiction does not let the reader forget they are reading a fictional work; where as presentational theatre does not let the audience forget it is viewing a play. It is otherwise known as Romantic irony in the context of Romantic works of literature, it portrays self-reflexive techniques to draw the reader’s awareness to itself as a work of art, while also revealing the “truth“ of a story. Valdamir Nabokov’s Pale Fire and John Updike’s Rabbit Run have both been recognized to be literary works of metafiction. Pale Fire is a poem of nine hundred ninety-nine lines, divided into four cantos that was composed by John Francis Shade (Nabokov 13). A canto is a division of a long poem (OED). Canto One is 166 lines of amusing perihelia and amusing birds that is written on thirteen index cards. Canto Two and Canto Three take up twenty-seven cards and 334 lines each. The last canto, Canto Four, covers an identical 166 lines or thirteen cards to mirror that of Canto One. Pale Fire is believed to be a meta-fiction because it takes the experimental form of a poem by the fictive personal... ... middle of paper ... ...). These pieces of Nabokov’s writing lead us as readers to believe this work of literature is a metafiction due to the fact Kinbote is writing about Shade’s “Pale Fire” poem in his commentary and in the Forward. If a reader knows what metafiction is, essentially they will realize Nabokov’s Pale Fire is a work of that because of the commentary from Kinbote on Shade’s poem within the one work of literature. Both Kinbote and Shade’s writing are within that of Nabokov’s so both pieces within the literary work are elements and techniques Nabokov uses to get to the reader. Nabokov creates biographies of both John Shade and Charles Kinbote. They both have their own separate lives but are also both writers of what’s in Vladamir Nabokov’s writing. Essentially, it is entirely up to the reader and how they want to perceive the writing of both writers within the author.
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