Metafiction

Self-conscious fiction, in a nutshell. These unconventional books explore every aspect of the fictional genre--its devices, its relation to reality, even the experience of reading itself. Common methods include characters who realize that they exist in a novel, footnotes that reflect and interact with the novel as it progresses, etc.
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389 books · 533 voters · list created July 14th, 2009 by Abigail Bowman (votes) .
338 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


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Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy Umm....House of Leaves is on this list twice.


message 2: by Annette (new)

Annette Amy wrote: "Umm....House of Leaves is on this list twice."

Lots of lists have books on them more than once. I don't know why nobody notices this.


message 3: by Lis (new)

Lis How is The Handmaid's Tale meta?


message 4: by Paul (new)

Paul Bowes Checked for duplicates: 2 books removed.


message 5: by Paul (new)

Paul Bowes Clearly some people have a rather odd idea of what is meant by 'metafiction'. The term was coined in 1970 by the American writer William Gass, and it makes decreasingly little sense to use it in connection with writing before the 20th century - though it's perfectly fair to acknowledge isolated prototypes as early as Tristram Shandy and Jacques the Fatalist.

I think that the main point is that somewhere in the text the reader's attention must be explicitly drawn to the fictionality of the reading experience, and in a way that isn't just incidental. It isn't enough for the book to have been written during the postmodern period, or to exhibit other postmodernist features.

If one ignores this, one ends up suggesting, with Patricia Waugh in her book Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-conscious Fiction (1988) that "all fiction is...implicitly metafictional": trivially true, but not useful. It doesn't help that 'metafictional' seems to have been used quite casually elsewhere as a synonym for 'postmodernist', which it isn't.


message 6: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Paul wrote: "Clearly some people have a rather odd idea of what is meant by 'metafiction'. The term was coined in 1970 by the American writer William Gass, and it makes decreasingly little sense to use it in co..."

Or Don Quixote.


message 7: by Paul (new)

Paul Bowes Checked for duplicates: 1 book removed.

But to be quite frank, to be useful this list would have to be reduced by two-thirds.


message 8: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bowman As the original creator of this list, I'd love to trim off the books I don't consider metafiction, but I don't see any way for me to do so. Seems we're at the mercy of the Goodreads voters :/


message 9: by Patrick (new)

Patrick The crux - and the beauty - of open lists is the more users are involved, the more it gets watered down.


message 10: by Patrick (new)

Patrick (But I really love that list, nevertheless.)


message 11: by Paul (new)

Paul Bowes Abigail wrote: "As the original creator of this list, I'd love to trim off the books I don't consider metafiction, but I don't see any way for me to do so. Seems we're at the mercy of the Goodreads voters :/"

As the list creator, you should be able to remove anything that doesn't fit the bill, surely? You are allowed to remove books that are 'totally miscategorized', after all.

You might have to be a little more prescriptive in the list description. For example, Nabokov's 'Pale Fire' (#6) seems fine; but what makes 'Lolita' (#7) metafictional?


message 12: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bowman Paul wrote: "As the list creator, you should be able to remove anything that doesn't fit the bill, surely? You are allowed to remove books that are 'totally miscategorized', after all."

I would love to remove miscategorized books, but I don't see any way to do that. All I can do is edit the description and rate my own suggestions for the list; I've been unable to find any way to remove books from the list. If you have any ideas on how to do that, I'm all ears!


message 13: by Paul (new)

Paul Bowes Abigail wrote: "Paul wrote: "As the list creator, you should be able to remove anything that doesn't fit the bill, surely? You are allowed to remove books that are 'totally miscategorized', after all."

I would lo..."
If you can edit the list at all, you should be able to see two links (after you press 'edit' after the description on the first page) that give you two further options: 'check for duplicates' and 'remove individual books'. If you can't see those links, you don't have full editing privileges.

If you'd like to list books here that you want to see removed, I'll happily remove them for you.


message 14: by Kc (new)

Kc Wilson This list, probably well intended, is not as useful as other lists, because the rubric, Metafiction, is stretched to unrecognizable degrees. "Meta" (a.k.a. "reflexive") means it's clearly about the work's own genre & medium--whether fiction, painting, or theatre. No Shakespeare is metafiction, because (a) it's drama, and (b) there's no centering on writing (even when letters are pivotal). Ditto "Godot." If reviewers think works are *allegories* for writing/reading/fiction, that's an interpretation for an essay, not criterion for basic categorizing to help fellow list users.


message 15: by Michele (new)

Michele Yeah. a lot of these REALLY do not belong on a metafiction list. Disappointing. Sort of ruins the utility of the whole thing.


message 16: by Michele (new)

Michele Paul wrote: "But to be quite frank, to be useful this list would have to be reduced by two-thirds...If you'd like to list books here that you want to see removed, I'll happily remove them for you."

I agree. Here are a few to prune to start with:

Little, Big
Understanding Comics
Redshirts
Duma Key
Don Quixote
the Poe collection
Winne the Pooh
Wicked
Much Ado About Nothing
Hamlet
Jonathan Strange
Orlando
The Handmaid's Tale
Northanger Abbey
French Lieutenant's Woman
Dark Tower series
Peter Pan
S.
Lolita
Princess Bride


message 17: by Fiona (new)

Fiona Hurley I would argue for keeping The Princess Bride on a list of metafiction. The author frames the story as an abridged retelling of an older book with the "boring bits" taken out, and he frequently alludes to this older book throughout the text.


message 18: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bowman I just rechecked, and though I can edit the description and remove duplicate books, I don't have the option to remove individual books (even though I originally created the list).

I agree with Michele's list to prune, with the exception of S., which is certainly metafiction. While some of those books have metafictional elements, they aren't necessarily books I would assign in a course about metafiction (which is more of what I was going for in creating the list).


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