An overview of major themes I found while studying metafiction for the Metaclass, a self-study course for a masters of literature at San Francisco State University. This summary will also serve as a guide to the posts I have written over the last four months (with notes about a few others I intend to write). It is not meant to be a comprehensive list of meta conventions, but an addition to the the list found under Meta-Meta and Metafiction. (Nor is this intended to be a summary of themes I developed about writing and teaching, the metaclass aspect. Those themes may be found in Putting It All Together: Collaborative and Integrated Reading and Writing.)
Don Quixote is the first modern novel. But who wrote it? In the preface, the narrator states, “though I seem to be the father [I am] but the step-father of Don Quixote” (15). He has compiled and translated a book, we learn, written mostly by Cid Hamet Ben Engeli, “Arabian historiographer” (68), who gathered his material from various sources.
What? What did that title just say? Now hold on just a moment! Who the hell does this Ronosaurus Rex think he is anyway, calling the first Great Poet (with a capital G and a capital P) in the English language “a bad poet and a didactic bore”? When I read “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” for example, I remember delightful comedy, complex poetry and deep insight.
Bleak House by Charles Dickens is a printed text and the book frequently reminds readers of that fact, so that readers can not accept the text literally, but are goaded into carefully and skeptically examining the two narratives and the various documents central to the story.
Is this a realistic narrative? A little girl with dimples and pink ribbons gets the puppy she wanted for her birthday, even though her mother has said they couldn’t afford it. The girl wraps her pudgy arms around her mom’s neck and whispers, “Thanks, Mommy-cakes. I love you so much.”
Not very realistic? Why not? Such things don’t happen? Or does the tale sound like the type of story that makes people smile and feel good. It may be “heart-warming,” but it isn’t what we call “realistic.”
Take a moment and imagine a more “realistic” version of this story. Feel free to change it in any way you like, as long as it retains the little girl with dimples, her mom, and the puppy.
The impossibility of producing a truthful account of any event, however uncomplicated it might seem, I tried to show in “Who is Writing This?” and “A Not Not-True Blog of a Short, Simple Morning.” Every piece of writing, fiction or non-, requires the creation of a speaker, who may (or may not) share certain characteristics in common with the writer, for example a name, a gender, a context. Nevertheless, this speaker is not the writer. Make no mistake. Even the most honest speaker must necessarily present themselves more simplify or preface every utterance with a story as long as their lives. Continue reading ““Where is Truth?” I Ask You”