Changing Places

by David Lodge

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What are two metafictional features in David Lodge's Changing Places?

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In Changing Places, David Lodge employs metafiction by addressing readers to call attention to the fictional nature of the story, by deliberately mirroring the real world closely and obviously, and by incorporating many different fictional styles into the novel's chapters.

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Metafiction refers to an author's deliberate disturbance of the fictional world through references and techniques that remind readers that they are reading fiction. Sometimes metafiction includes direct references to readers as readers and the world of the story as fiction. Other times, characters and events are so blatantly representative of real-world people and events that readers cannot help but think of the latter. Further, authors sometimes deliberately play with and examine fictional elements and styles through their works of fiction. All of these metafictional techniques occur in David Lodge's Changing Places.

Changing Places is the tale of a faculty exchange between two fictional universities. Two professors switch lives for a while. Lodge uses this exchange to dig deeply into the world of academics, literary theories, and student protests, and he includes plenty of metafiction along the way.

First, the narrator in the first chapter of Changing Places is omniscient and makes the readers feel as if they are, too, with regard to the story. He deliberately refers to their "privileged narrative altitude," for instance, calling readers' attention to the fact that they are reading fiction. The author also includes plenty of invitations to the reader to “Imagine, if you will ...”

Further, Lodge's characters and situations are so close to the situations of universities in the late 1960s and early 1970s that readers with even a passing familiarity cannot help but notice. Professor Morris Zapp, for instance, is largely modeled on real-life literary critic Stanley Fish. Further, the discussions of literary conflicts and theoretical issues deliberately reflect reality extremely closely. Even the two fictional colleges are clearly meant to represent England's University of Birmingham and California's Berkley.

Finally, Lodge plays with fictional styles throughout the novel. Each chapter is written in a different style. The first has an omniscient narrator, but other chapters contain a series of letters, a set of newspaper articles, and even a screenplay. All of these different fictional elements serve to call attention (dramatically) to the nature of fiction in itself, and that, of course, is the purpose of metafiction.

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