Metafiction in the 1960's The Movement

The Movement

(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Because traditional literary forms did not adequately reflect the social upheaval of the 1960’s, experimental authors chose to go beyond the idea that fiction should mimic reality. Instead, postmodernist writers embraced a kind of self-conscious fiction that examined the very process by which fiction is created. Few notable examples of metafiction existed before the late 1950’s. One rare early model is Tristram Shandy (1759-1767) by Laurence Sterne. André Gide’s seminal novel The Counterfeiters (1926) uses a predecessor to postmodernist experimentalism, the mise-en-abyme method (a method in which a continual internal duplication exists within a literary work). Metafiction in the United States was inspired by work in nonliterary artistic fields. In visual art, cubists, Dadaists, and expressionists provided impetus for metafictional writers by seeking to obliterate the paradoxical falsity of reality in their art, just as metafictional writers wanted to tear away facades in their fiction. In philosophy, eighteenth century philosopher Immanuel Kant’s suggestion that humanity’s relationship to the world is defined by subjective sensory perceptions and that humans create their own reality prompted writers to diverge from traditional realistic fiction. Epistemological theories based on Kant pointed out that empirical evidence cannot exist, and thus life itself becomes a form of metafiction. These ideas impelled European authors such as Franz Kafka,...

(The entire section is 606 words.)