Criticism: Studies Of Metafictional Authors And Works - Essay

Barry Wood (essay date winter 1978)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wood, Barry. “Malcolm Lowry's Metafiction: The Biography of a Genre.” Contemporary Literature 19, no. 1 (winter 1978): 1-25.

[In the following essay, Wood contends that Lowry's short story “Ghostkeeper” reveals insights into his creative process and acts as a model for his later work.]

The 1973 publication of “Ghostkeeper” in American Review made available one of the most tantalizing of Malcolm Lowry's later stories. Most commentators who have mentioned it note that it exists only in a first draft with inserted notes for revision; and Margerie Lowry includes an apologetic footnote to this effect in her Psalms and Songs version...

(The entire section is 9885 words.)

Ulrich Wicks (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wicks, Ulrich. “Borges, Bertolucci, and Metafiction.” In Narrative Strategies: Original Essays in Film and Prose Fiction, edited by Syndy M. Conger and Janice R. Welsch, pp. 19-36. Macomb, Ill.: Western Illinois University, 1980.

[In the following essay, Wicks places the work of Jorge Luis Borges within the metafictional tradition of Miguel de Cervantes, Laurence Sterne, André Gide, and John Barth.]

Why does it disturb us that Don Quixote be a reader of the Quixote and Hamlet a spectator of Hamlet? I believe I have found the reason: these inversions suggest that if the characters of a fictional work can be readers or...

(The entire section is 9621 words.)

Inger Christensen (essay date 1981)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Christensen, Inger. “John Barth's Metafictional Redemption.” In The Meaning of Metafiction: A Critical Study of Selected Novels by Sterne, Nabokov, Barth, and Beckett, pp. 57-79. Bergen, Norway: Universitetsforlaget, 1981.

[In the following essay, Christensen provides a thematic and stylistic analysis of John Barth's metafictional novels The Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goat-Boy.]

One of the stories in John Barth's fifth book Lost in the Funhouse (1968) is called “Petition”. It is written in the form of a letter to the King of Siam from a man who is a Siamese twin. The petitioner implores the King's help to be parted from his twin brother....

(The entire section is 11344 words.)

Raymond A. Mazurek (essay date spring 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mazurek, Raymond A. “Metafiction, the Historical Novel, and Coover's The Public Burning.Critique 23, no. 3 (spring 1982): 29-42.

[In the following essay, Mazurek views Robert Coover's The Public Burning as a metafictional historical novel.]

Robert Coover's The Public Burning (1977), a fictionalized account of the Rosenberg case told largely from the point of view of Richard Nixon, combines metafictional techniques with a critique of American history and ideology. Among the many recent examples of serious historical fiction, Coover's novel seems unusual in the extent of its satire and the bitterness of its vision. As the often...

(The entire section is 5015 words.)

Paul M. Hedeen (essay date winter 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hedeen, Paul M. “A Symbolic Center in a Conceptual Country: A Gassian Rubric for The Sound and the Fury.Modern Fiction Studies 31, no. 4 (winter 1985): 623-43.

[In the following essay, Hedeen discusses William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury as a work of metafiction, and explores the affinities shared between Faulkner and William Gass.]

Generally reflecting critical trends, most recent criticism of William Faulkner's fiction shares one general characteristic. It has moved away from reconciling his works with mimetic emphases on character, plot, and theme and has moved toward formalistic analyses that seek to place his works within his...

(The entire section is 9785 words.)

Jerry A. Varsava (essay date winter 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Varsava, Jerry A. “Auto-Bio-Graphy as Metafiction: Peter Handke's A Sorrow beyond Dreams.Clio: A Journal of Literature, History and the Philosophy of History 14, no. 2 (winter 1985): 119-35.

[In the following essay, Varsava surveys metafictional elements in Peter Handke's A Sorrow beyond Dreams.]

Typically, contemporary metafiction has primarily dealt with a world of fictive events. The author—either directly or through a persona—reflects on the “made” or “constructed” quality of his fictional realm, dispelling notions of narrative omniscience and epistemological apodicticity as his fiction progresses. The reader infers that his own...

(The entire section is 7043 words.)

Thomas E. Kennedy (essay date summer 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kennedy, Thomas E. “Fiction as Its Own Subject: An Essay and Two Examples—Anderson's ‘Death in the Woods’ and Weaver's ‘The Parts of Speech.’” Kenyon Review 9, no. 3 (summer 1987): 59-70.

[In the following essay, Kennedy examines two little-known works of short metafiction—Sherwood Anderson's “Death in the Woods” and Gordon Weaver's “The Parts of Speech.”]

The terms “metafiction” and “self-reflexive fiction” have been used to denote fiction's deliberately self-conscious employment of technique to bolster the deteriorated equipment of more conventional methods with which the art is concealed. Thus, for example, Barth employs...

(The entire section is 6212 words.)

Michael Dunne (essay date fall 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dunne, Michael. “Stardust Memories, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and the Tradition of Metafiction.” Film Criticism 12, no. 1 (fall 1987): 19-27.

[In the following essay, Dunne finds parallels between John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse and Woody Allen's film The Purple Rose of Cairo.]

Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) has the same relation to romantic film comedy as radical post-modern writing such as John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse (1967) has to traditional prose fiction. The chief parallel stems from the fact that, faced with outmoded conventional forms, Allen—like Barth—ironically raises doubts about the...

(The entire section is 4812 words.)

John Pennington (essay date spring 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Pennington, John. “Phantastes as Metafiction: George MacDonald's Self-Reflexive Myth.” Mythlore 14, no. 3 (spring 1988): 26-9.

[In the following essay, Pennington asserts that George MacDonald's Phantastes “anticipates modern metafictional techniques.”]

G. K. Chesterton called George MacDonald “a spiritual genius” whose “fairy tales and allegorical fantasies were epoch-making in the lives of multitudes, children and parents alike …” (p. 1) W. H. Auden considered him “pre-eminently a mythopoeic writer,” and “in his power … to project his innerlife into images, events, beings, landscapes which are valid for all, he is one...

(The entire section is 3857 words.)

Katherine Fishburn (essay date summer 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fishburn, Katherine. “Wor(l)ds within Words: Doris Lessing as Meta-Fictionist and Meta-Physician.” Studies in the Novel 20, no. 2 (summer 1988): 186-205.

[In the following essay, Fishburn identifies and discusses the work of Doris Lessing as a metafictional writer.]

—A book which does not contain its counterbook is considered incomplete.

—Jorge Luis Borges

Although Doris Lessing is probably best known as the author of The Golden Notebook, I think it is safe to say that most critics would not characterize the bulk of her fiction as formally experimental or even up-to-date. In...

(The entire section is 10390 words.)

Molly Hite (essay date fall 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hite, Molly. “(En)gendering Metafiction: Doris Lessing's Rehearsals for The Golden Notebook.Modern Fiction Studies 34, no. 3 (fall 1988): 481-500.

[In the following essay, Hite examines the origins of Lessing's metafictional The Golden Notebook.]

Metafiction—fiction that is in some overt way about fiction—is one of the few literary genres that has managed to provoke and sustain controversy throughout its history.1 Not merely individual works of metafiction, but metafiction itself is regularly stigmatized or applauded as “subversive,” to the point where subversion might be called its defining feature. But the subversion presumed...

(The entire section is 9328 words.)

Helen Hoy (essay date summer 1989)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hoy, Helen. “‘Rose and Janet’: Alice Munro's Metafiction.” Canadian Literature 121 (summer 1989): 59-83.

[In the following essay, Hoy traces the complicated publication history of Alice Munro's collection of short fiction Who Do You Think You Are? and discusses stylistic and thematic aspects of her stories.]

“‘That Rose you write about? Is that supposed to be you?’”1


Before Alice Munro's Who Do You Think You Are? appeared in the fall of 1978, her anticipated new collection of stories was...

(The entire section is 11688 words.)