Tag: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

What is Metafiction?

Posted August 10, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 4 Comments

I’ve heard a bit of talk about metafiction lately and to be honest I wasn’t sure what it was. The dictionary defines it as; fiction that discusses, describes, or analyses a work of fiction or the conventions of fiction. That didn’t really help me with understanding the concept in greater detail. After further investigations I found the most common types of metafiction and some examples of each one;

  • A novel about a writer creating a story (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).
  • A novel about a reader reading a novel (The Princess Bride)
  • A novel which features itself as its own prop or McGuffin (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
  • A novel within the novel (The Man in the High Castle, Sophie’s World or The Princess Bride).
  • A novel wherein the author (not merely the narrator) is a character (Breakfast of Champions or Slaughterhouse Five)
  • A non-linear novel, which can be read in any order other than from beginning to end (Finnegans Wake).
  • Merging characters or elements from diverse works of fiction into a new fictional scenario (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)

There are many more scenarios of metafiction out there and the more you think about it the more books start to fit. I just though I would give some examples so you can better understand metafiction too. If you have some interesting examples of metafiction please feel free to let me know.

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