The Metafictional Paradox

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Patricia Waugh, Metafiction: The Theory and Practice Methuen, London, 1984. 153 pp.

of SeljTonscious

Fiction.

Linda Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narratiue: The Metafictional Paradox. Methuen, London, 1984. 162 pp. Metafiction is now recognized as the designation of a kind of fiction - beginning to proliferate in the 1960s - that turns its attention on its own narrative andlor linguistic identity. Too often, critics have one-sidedly labeled it as an example of the anti-novel, a reaction against the teleological realistic tradition. Its self-reflectiveness has also been denigrated as a sign of exhaustion for the novel genre: no new fields seem left to develop and therefore it has turned inward upon itself. Some critics would argue that in metafiction the life-art connection has been severed or even denied, that the narcissism is a nihilistic exposure of previous illusions about a correlation between literary language and reality. Patricia Waugh's and Linda Hutcheon's books represent two recent contributions towards a revaluation of metafictional self-consciousness. Both suggest that there is no basic contradiction betwen auto-representational art and life. Fiction is not an aberration, for reality itself is a "book" circumscribed by culture and ideological concepts. In light of the theories of Derrida and associate poststructuralists, the mind is as much a product of language as a producer of language. Composing a novel becomes little different from construing one's 'reality7. Choosing this point of departure, Patricia Waugh points out the valuable prospects which metafiction opens up. Through parody and inversion of conventional patterns, the novel resists interpretative closure and displays its condition of artifice. It turns the focus on the very processes by which cultural codes of perception induce semblances of reality. In this way, it most fundamentally explores the entangled relationship between life and fiction. If it is true that our knowledge of the

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