Metafiction is a form of literature where the author deliberately emphasizes its constructiveness that continually reminds the reader to be aware that he or she is reading or viewing a fictional work as the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work by parodying or departing from novelistic conventions and traditional narrative techniques.
Metafiction is commonly associated with postmodern literature, however it can be traced back to much earlier works, such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1387) Miguel de Cevantes’ Don Quixote (1605) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. (1954-1955. It became prominent in the 1960’s with such tales as John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.
There are four variations:
Explicit/Implicit metafiction is identified by its use of clear metaficiton elements within the text quoting its own artificiality. For example, the narrator explains the story they are telling.
With Implicit metafiction rather than commenting on the text, it foregrounds the medium or its status as an artifact through various, such as disruptive techniques like metalepsis. Relying on the reader’s ability to recognize these devices to evoke a metafictional reading. Implicit metafiction is described as a mode of showing.
Direct/Indirect metafiction in contrast consists of metareferences external to it’s text, such as reflections/parodies and general discussions of aesthetic issues on specific other literary works or genres.
Critical/Non-critical metafiction is more frequently found in postmodernist fiction aiming to find the artificiality or fictionality of a text in some critical way. However, non-critical metafiction does not criticize or undermine the artificiality or fictionality of a text and can be used to “suggest that the story one is reading is authentic”.
Generally media-centered/truth- or fiction-centered metafiction deals with the medial quality of fiction or narrative but in some cases there is an additional focus on the truthfulness or inventiveness of a text, which merits mention as a specific form. The suggestion of a story being authentic would be an example of truth-centered metafiction.
Were you aware that the great tomes above were metafiction?
Have you written this genre? Care to share?