What is the function of parody and metafiction in John Barth's postmodern novel Lost in the Funhouse?
Barth's story is crammed with metafictional devices from the first paragraph on. These devices are a kind of running commentary on his writing technique and on the technique of others. In the midst of his narrative, he breaks into declarations about the standard ways of doing things in fiction, such as telling us how italics are used, but also telling us that in manuscript (at the time of his writing, when authors still had to use typewriters instead of computers!) this is accomplished through underlining. Barth talks about the method by which writers introduce characters and describe them to the reader. The impression is that he's teaching a literature class, but not necessarily one in which the students are sophisticated enough to know the basic elements of writing. He quotes a popular song of the 1940's and has the need to tell us it's a popular song (something most "conventional" fiction writers leave us to figure out on our own) and also telling us didactically that it is feminine-rhymed. He mentions Joyce's Ulysses and has the need to explain in simple terms the unique qualities of it.
This last point is especially interesting. If the principle of metafiction is to provide an internal...
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