The Conventions of Unconventionality: An Overview of Metafiction

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.)

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Who Wrote Don Quixote?

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.

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Chaucer: A Bad Poet and a Didactic Bore

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.

Canterbury Tales

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Meta Bleak House

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.




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A Realistic Story of a Little Girl with Dimples

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.

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