By Patricia Waugh

Metafiction starts by way of surveying the kingdom of up to date fiction in Britain and the US and explores the complicated political, social and financial components which impression severe judgment of fiction. the writer indicates how, because the novel has been eclipsed by way of the mass media, novelists have sought to maintain and regain a large readership by means of drawing at the issues and preoccupations of those kinds. utilising modern fiction by way of such writers as Fowles, Borges, Spark, Barthelme, Brautigan, Vonnegut and Barth, and drawing on Russian Formalist theories of literary evolution, the publication argues that metafiction makes use of parody besides well known genres and non-literary types as a fashion not just of revealing the insufficient and obsolescent conventions of the vintage novel, yet of stuggesting the strains alongside which fiction may well advance sooner or later

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Everything is framed, whether in life or in novels. Ortega y Gasset, writing on modernism, pointed out, however, that ‘not many people are capable of adjusting their perceptive apparatus to the pane and the transparency that is the work of art. Instead they look right through it and revel in the human reality with which the work deals’ (Ortega y Gasset 1948, p. 31 ). Contemporary metafiction, in particular, foregrounds ‘framing’ as a problem, examining frame procedures in the construction of the real world and of novels.

The human subject is suddenly inserted into the geometry problem – ‘the head against the wall at B, the arse against the wall at A, the knees against the wall between B and C’ – and the text breaks down into a series of oppositions: white/black, human/mathematical, light/dark, heat/ ice, in a sequence again of colliding combinations which reduce this world to variations on the alignments of ABCD (pp. 7–14). Calvino’s fiction also uses these strategies of combination. In The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1969) a footnote tells the reader that the ‘author’ (who is effectively made redundant by the information) generated the text in the manner reproduced in fact by the narrative situation: a group of characters who are mute tell their stories by selecting and combining the images from a pack of tarot cards.

Two leading ideas in the field of sociology have been the notion of history/reality as a construct, and the idea of ‘framing’ as the activity through which it is constructed. Psychologists, sociologists and even economists have surely proved the tremendous importance of the serious possibilities of ‘play’. Nevertheless it seems to be these aspects of metafictional writing that critics seize on to accuse it of ephemerality and irrelevance. This chapter aims to look at the ways in which metafictional techniques can be seen as a response to such non-literary cultural developments.

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