A Study on Metafictive Devices in the French Lieutenant’s Woman

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A Study on Metafictive Devices in The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Abstract
The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a splendid literary work written by English novelist John Fowles. It was published in 1969 and received universally acknowledged reputation as a masterpiece of postmodern novel. With intricate plot, the novel is regarded as a compelling historiographic metafiction in contemporary British literature. The characteristics of this novel are the metafictive devices employed by the author. Different from the previous studies centered on the idea of role reversal between characters or the analysis of sophisticated plot, this thesis is devoted to the exploring of metafictive devices adopted in the novel. The paper will first state the features of metafiction, followed by the thorough study of three metafictive devices, namely the intrusion of modern novelist-surrogate, the parody of Victorian romance and the creation of multiple endings. The last part will focus on the author’s profound aim in utilizing these techniques. Based on a careful survey of the original work and relevant materials, the paper holds the perception that through metafictive devices, Fowles has expressed his critical point of view towards Victorian era and woman emancipation. As a multi-faceted new woman in the novel, Sarah liberates herself from rigid social conventions and finally achieves her spiritual emancipation.

Key words: metafictive devices; woman emancipation; Victorian era

Contents
I. Introduction………………………………………………………………………...1 II. The Study of Metafictive Devices of The French Lieutenant’s Woman………...3 2.1 The Employment of Narrator-surrogate……………………..….............................4 2.2 The Parody of Victorian Romance…… …………………………..…..….…….…6 2.3 The Creation of Multiple Endings…………………….……………….……..........9 III Analysis of Fowles’s Purposes in Utilizing Metafictive Devices.......................11 3.1 Advocacy of Woman’s Selfhood…………………………………..……………..11 3.2 Resistance to Social Constraints…………………..…………………………......13 3.3 The Critique of Victorian Sexuality…………………………………………...…15 IV. Conclusion………………………………………………………….....................16 References ………………………………………………..……………....................18 I. Introduction

Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman is typically a time-honored historiographic metafiction in contemporary British literature. The term “metafiction” was coined by Willim H. Gass in a 1970 essay entitled “Philosophy and the Form of Fiction”. It is a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction and exposes the fiction illusion. Patricia Waugh in Metafiction specifically defines metafiction as a literary term “given to the fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between the fiction and reality.” ( Patricia Waugh 1988 :148). Metafictive devices are usually employed to undermine the authority of the author for emotional distance, or to comment on the act of storytelling. Focus of my thesis is a detailed study of metafictive devices adopted by the author. Although this novel is set in 1867, readers are not allowed to forget that it is written by a twentieth century man with a modern perspective and the gift of hindsight. John Fowles masterfully plunges us into 19th century Victorian England with its social customs, sexual taboos and moral attitudes. The novel's narrative is postmodern in that it focuses on the self-conscious act of the author telling a story. The first distinguishing feature is the intrusion of narrator-surrogate, who interrupts the reader’s suspension of disbelief by constantly calling attention to the fictional nature of the tale. Fowles also jolts us out of the story form time to time by using the parody of Victorian romance and the occasional references to the literature of the specific period. Through the play of intertextuality within the narrative of...
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