Waugh, Patricia 2003 [1984]. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. London; New York: Routledge.

Since I've started thinking about this story, I've gotten boils, piles, eye strain, stomach spasms, anxiety attacks. Finally I am consumed by the thought that at a certain point we all become nothing more than dying animals.
(Ronald Sukenick, The Death of the Novel and Other Stories, p. 49) (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 1)
Aren't we already dying animals?
If asked to point out the similarities amongst this disconcerting selection of quotations, most readers would immediately list two or three of the following: a celebration of the power of the creative imagination together with an uncertainty about the validity of its representations; an extreme self-consciousness about language, literary form and the act of writing fictions; a pervasive insecurity about the relationship of fiction to reality; a parodic, playful, excessive or deceptively naïve style of writing. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 2)
And the book ends [spoiler] with a quote from John Barth: "Oh god comma I abhor self-consciousness."
Most of the quotations are fairly contemporary. This is deliberate. Over the last twenty years, novelists have tended to become more aware of the theoretical issues involved in constructing fictions. In consequence, their novels have tended to embody dimensions of self-reflexivity and formal uncertainty. What connects not only these quotations but also all of the very different writers whom one could refer to as broadly 'metafictional', is that they all explore a theory of fiction through the practice of writing fiction. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 2)
An author named Brook-Rose, in the novel Thru (1975), even uses Jakobson's communication model (see Waugh 2003 [1984]: 147; below).
The linguist L. Hjelmslev developed the term 'metalanguage' (Hjelmslev 1961). He defined it as a language which, instead of referring to non-linguistic events, situations or objects in the world, refers to another language: it is a language which takes another language as its object. Saussure's distinction between signifier and the signified is relevant here. The signifier is the sound-image of the word or its shape on the page; the signified is the concept evoked by the word. A metalanguage is a language that functions as a signifier to another language, and this other language this becomes its signified. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 4)
The case is pretty much similar with Barthes' semiological analysis of (ideological) myth. But Hjelmslev was not the first to develop the term 'metalanguage'. I believe early proponents of symbolic logic were the first to really develop it.
I would argue that metafictional practice has become particularly prominent in the fiction of the last twenty years. However, to draw exclusively on contemporary fiction would be misleading, for, although the term 'metafiction' might be new, the practice is as old (if not older) than the novel itself. What I hope to establish during the course of this book is that metafiction is a tendency or function inherent in all novels. This form of fiction is worth studying not only because of its contemporary emergence but also because of the insights it offers into both the representational nature of all fiction and the literary history of the novel as genre. By studying metafiction, one is, in effect, studying that which gives the novel its identity. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 5)
Alas just like Jakobson's functions are inherent in all acts of communication so is metafictionality an aspect of all fiction.
Metafictional novels tend to be constructed on the principle of a fundamental and sustained opposition: the construction of a fictional illusion (as in traditional realism) and the laying bare of that illusion. In other words, the lowest common denominator of metafiction is simultaneously to create a fiction and to make a statement about the creation of that fiction. The two processes are held together in a formal tension which breaks down the distinction between 'creation' and 'criticism' and merges them into the concepts of 'interpretation' and 'deconstruction'. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 6)
Fiction becomes metafiction when it enters the metalevel and avails the fiction as fiction.
In eghteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction, the individual is always finally integrated into the social structure (usually through family relationships, marriage, birth or the ultimate dissolution of death). In modern fiction the struggle for personal autonomy can be continued only through opposition to existing social institutions and conventions. This struggle necessarily involves individual alienation and often ends with mental dissolution. The power structures of contemporary society are, however, more diverse and more effectively concealed or mystified, creating greater problems for the post-modernist novelist in identifying and then representing the object of 'opposition'. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 10-11)
It's like she's describing Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four or any number of dystopias where the individual struggles against the totalitarian regime and finally, in most cases, commits suicide.
Aleatory writing simply responds with a reply in kind to the pluralistic, hyperactive multiplicity of styles that constitute the surfaces of present-day culture. What is mainly asserted in such novels is an anarchic individualism, a randomness designed to represent an avoidance of social control by stressing the impossibility of easily categorizing it or assimilating the reader to familiar structures of communication. An argument sometimes proposed to justify the strategies of such fictions is that they are 'radical' because they rupture the conventional linguistic contracts that certify and/or disguise orthodox social practices (as realism, for example, certifies concepts like 'eternal human nature' or the assumption that authority as manifested through the omniscient author is somehow free of both gender distinctions and of historically constructed and provisional moral values). Such novels supposedly expose the way in which these social practices are constructed through the language of oppressive ideologies, by refusing to allow the reader the role of passive consumer or any means of arriving at a 'total' interpretation of the text. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 12-13)
The first part sounds like description of Rando's ideology (avoidance of social control). The latter part addresses the possibility of overturning social conventions in metafiction.
Metafiction, then, does not abandon 'the real world' for the narcissistic pleasure of the imagination. What it does is to re-examine the conventions of realism in order to discover - through its own self-reflection - a fictional form that is culturally relevant and comprehensible to contemporary readers. In showing us how literary fiction creates its imaginary worlds, metafiction helps us to understand how the reality we live day by day is similarly constructed, similarly 'written'. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 18)
Strands of constructivism. I think what is "comprehensible to contemporary readers" involves the Internet, e-mails, instant messages, etc.
In all of these what is foregrounded is the writing of the text as the most fundamentally problematic aspect of that text. Although metafiction is just one form of post-modernism, nearly all contemporary exprimental writing displays some explicitly metafictional strategies. Any text that draws the reader's attention to its process of construction by frustrating his or her conventional expectations of meaning and closure problematizes more or less explicitly the ways in which narrative codes - whether 'literary' or 'social' - artificially construct apparently 'real' and imaginary worlds in the terms of particular ideologies while presenting these as transparently 'natural' and 'eternal'. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 22)
What are narrative codes?
Whereas loss of order for the modernist led to the belief in its recovery at a deeper level of the mind, for metafictional writers the most fundamental assumption is that composing a novel is basically no different from composing or constructing one's 'reality'. Writing itself rather than consciousness becomes the main object of attention. Questioning not only the notion of the novelist as God, through the flaunting of the author's godlike role, but also the authority of consciousness, of the mind, metafiction establishes the categorization of the world throuh the arbitrary system of language. The modernist writer whose style fits closest with this essentially post-modernist mode of writing is, of course, James Joyce. Even in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), the epiphanic moments are usually connected with a self-reflexive response to language itself. The word 'foetus', for example, scratched on a desk, forces upon Stephen's consciousness a recognition of his whole 'monstruous way of life' (pp. 90-2). (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 24-25)
It is apparent that the term 'metafiction' is modeled after 'metalanguage'.
Analysis of frames is the analysis, in the above terms, of the organization of experience. When applied to fiction it involves analysis of the formal conventional organization of novels. What both Goffman and metafictional novels highlight through the foregrounding and analysis of framing activities is the extent to which we have become aware that neither historical experiences nor literary fictions are unmediated or enprocessed or non-linguistic or, as the modernists would have it, 'fluid' or 'random'. Frames are essential in all fiction. They become more perceptible as one moves from realist to modernist modes and are explicitly laid bare in metafiction. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 30)
I wonder how this compares to Lotman's treatment of frames.
It is clear that metafictional writers view play in this light - Ronald Sukenick, for example, in a story entitled 'The Death of the Novel' (1969): 'What we need is not great works but playful ones. ... A story is a game someone has played so you can play it too' (pp. 56-7) - and it is clear that psychologists like L. S. Vygotsky (1971), Jean Piaget (1951) and Gregory Bateson (1972) share this perception. However, it is also clear that critics of metafiction either disagree with psychologists' and sociologists' view of play as educative and enlightening or disagree with the notion of art as play. For metafiction sets out to make this explicit: that play is a relatively autonomous activity but has a definite value in the real world. Play is facilitated by rules and roles, and metafiction operates by exploring fictional rules to discover the role of fictions in life. It aims to discover how we each 'play' our own realities. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 34-35)
Another similarity with Lotman.
Bateson saw play as a means of discovering new communicative possibilities, since the 'meta' level necessary for play allows human beings to discover how they can manipulate behaviour and contexts. The subsequent discovery of new methods of communication allows for adaption, which he sees as ensuring human survival. Fictional play also re-evaluates the traditional procedures of communication and allows release from established patterns. Metafiction explicitly examines the relation of these procedures within the novel to procedures outside it, ensuring the survival through adaptability of the novel itself. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 36)
Langer similarly stressed that we play with symbols before we use them practically for communication.
The 'Dear Reader' is no longer quite so passive and becomes in effect an acknowledged fully active player in a new conception of literature as a collective creation rather than a monologic and authoritative version of history. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 43)
In metafiction the author writes himself into his fiction more readily. I'm suspecting Kurbmäng Paabelis is metafictional.
Characters in fiction are, of course, literally signs on a page before they are anything else. The implications of this provide a fairly simple creative starting point for much metafictional paly. Is a character more than a word or a set of words? B. S. Johnson, for example, is clearly drawn towards a traditional liberal-humanist treatment of his characters and yet displays the conviction that they exist merely as the words he chooses to put on page. In Christie Malry's Own Double Entry (1973) Johnson continually intrudes into the text to remind the reader that Christie is whatever fortuitous collection of words happen to enter his head during composition. Yet, at his death-bed scene, the necessary human awfulness of the situation forces Johnson to abandon his focus on verbal interaction and to shift to apparent interpersonal relationship. The author visits Christie in hospital, 'and the nurse suggested I leave, not knowing who I was, that he could not die without me' (p. 180). The self-conscious literary irony is clearly secondary to the pathos and absurdity of the represented human situation. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 56-57)
...because in Kurbmäng Paabelis, besides other awesome stuff, the author Olev Remsu discusses with Arthur Bannister his fate and how he will kill him.
In other words, parody renews and maintains the relationship between form and what it can express, by upsetting a previous balance which has become so rigified that the conventions of the form can express only a limited or even irrelevant content. The breaking of the frame of convention deliberately lays bare the process of automatization that occurs when a content totally appropriates a form, paralysing it with fixed associations which gradually remove it from the range of current viable artistic possibilities. The critical function of parody thus discovers which forms can express which contents, and its creative function releases them for the expression of contemporary concerns. Parody has, of course, always performed these functions: Walter Shandy's hovering foot, for example, in Tristam Shandy (1760), is on one level a direct critique of the mimetic fallacy of Richardson's exhaustive attention to detail. On another level, however, it provides a more general insight into the very essence of narrative - its inescapable linearity, its necessary selectivity as it translates the non-verbal into the verbal - and finally creates its own comedy out of its critique. However, because parody has been considered mainly as a form of criticism, it has been regarded as a sign of generic exhaustion. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 68-69)
Verbal descriptions are indeed linear and selective, but is it translation?
She comes to realize, however, that her experiments with style serve only to undermine it as a reality-defining concept, and she is finally saved only by her recognition of an insight very well expressed in John Barth's The End of the Road (1958):
to turn experience into speech - that is to classify, to categorize, to conceptualize, to grammatize, to syntactify it - is always a betrayal of experience ... but only so betrayed can it be dealt with at all and only in so dealing with it did I ever feel a man alive and kicking. (p. 116)
'Free Women', the 'realistic' novel which Anna writes, based on the experiences of the notebooks, is precisely such an expression of the need for categorization to preserve sanity. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 74-75)
"[...] assert it [firstness, experience], and it has lost its innocence;" (CP 1.357)
The language of realism is generally metonymic: descriptions are presented as a selection from a whole which is the real world. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 87)
A very simplistic interpretation of the metonym.
The successful comprehension of a so-called 'natural utterance' therefore depends on the resolution of indeterminacies of context. It depends upon the operation of the conventions of what J. L. Austin has termed the 'appropriateness conditions' relevant to each speech-act context (Austin 1962). This will include a variety of factors present in the immediate context: the relation of speaker to hearer, tone of voice, paralinguistic gestures, indexical reference to the immediate surroundings. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 88)
What exactly are paralinguistic gestures? [Never mind, some other authors too confuse nonverbal communication with paralinguistic communication.]
Descriptions of objects in fiction are simultaneously creations of that object. (Descriptions of objects in the context of the material world are determined by the existence of the object outside the description.) (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 88)
This pretty much captures what I'm trying to get at with concourse and the body code [instead of "body language"].
The everyday world is merely another order of discourse so that, as one of the characters in Donald Barthelme's novel Snow White (1967) says:
The moment I inject discourse from my universe of discourse into your universe of discourse, the yourness of yours is diluted. The more I inject it, the more you dilute. ... (p. 46)
Literary fiction simply demonstrates the existence of multiple realities. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 89)
But how do you inject your own discourse into anothers? Here, take these words!?
The speaker in John Barth's 'Night Sea Journey' (1968) thus cries out at the end of the story, when the dream is paradoxically accomplished:
mad as it may be my dream is that some unimaginable embodiment of myself. ... will come to find itself expressing in however garbled or radical a translation, some reflection of these reflections. If against all odds this comes to pass, may you to whom, through whom I speak, do what I cannot: terminate this aimless brutal business. (p. 12)
Here is a character that is only a voice, having knowledge of its existence only, it appears, when it utters. Yet it has no power to stoy the utterance. The embodiment longed for is of something outside language, beyond an author, but it is of course the author's 'voice' which is the utterance; language which is the totality of existence; text which is reality. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 91)
Similar paradoxes awaits those who dwell on Batesons contention that one cannot not communicate - e.g. the nonverbal chatter of movements, gestures, expressions and crepitations cannot be easily silenced.
Searle might well now modify this statement, but it is still a useful way of pointing to the crucial fact that in fiction the description of an object brings that object into existence. In the everyday world the object determines the description. However much 'fiction' is seen as interchangeable with 'reality', the crucial difference remains that in literary fiction the world is entirely a verbal construct. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 93)
I believe that literary fiction is one of the most profuse source for descriptions of nonverbal behaviour (or what I still call concourse).
Although linguistic signs normally denote the non-linguistic entities for which they are signs, this is not the case with literary fiction. Such theories begin to move towards an emphasis on the special nature of the relationship between utterance and context in fiction, the relations between word and word, rather than word and world:
the difference between a sentence used as an actual assertion and the same sentence used as a mock assertion ... is not mirrored in the syntactic or other features of the sentence. This difference is a matter of the purpose the receiver assumes the utterance to have. (Olsen 1978, p. 47)
To some extent nearly all metafictional writers are aware of this quasi-referential status of fiction. Some, however, choose to develop it in terms of an 'alternative reality'. Texts that consistently undermine every assertion with a reminder to the reader of its quasi-referential status must obviously occupy a 'non-predication' position. Such underminings thoroughly remove the fictional text from the context of 'common use' and emphasize its special linguistic status.
In John Barth's story 'Lost in the Funhouse' (1968) almost every sentence is undermined and exposed as fictional. The text exists as a dialogue between the reader and different narrators about the validity of the conventions available for telling stories. After the description of a character, the reader is immediately informed: 'Descriptions of physical appearance and mannerisms is one of several standard methods of characterization used by writers of fiction' (Lost in the Funhouse, pp. 73-4). Even sentences that appear to be reliable sources of information are so stylized as to offer an implicit comment on realism:
Peter and Ambrose's father, while steering the black 1936 la Salle Sedan with one hand, could with the other, remove the first cigarette from a white pack of Lucky Strikes, and, more remarkable, light it with a match forefingered from its book and thumbed against the flint paper without being detached. (p. 75)
A mundane action is thus represented in a highly parenthesized, adjectivized sentence, using long pronominal phrases and extremely long qualifiers. The effect of this is to lull the reader, not into acceptance of the scene as real, but into acceptance of its reality as a sentence in a book. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 94-95)
Physical appearance, mannerisms and muntane actions is exactly what I'm trying to approach. It is nonverbal communication, though, only insofar as nonverbal behaviour is communicated to the reader.
Metafiction lays bare the linguistic basis of the 'alternative worlds' constructed in literary fictions. Through continual shifts in and therefore revelations of context, metafictional texts expose the creation/description paradox. The more a text insists on its linguistic condition, the further it is removed from the everyday context of 'common sense' invoked by realistic fiction. Metafictional texts show that literary fiction can never imitate or 'represent' the world but always imitates or 'represents' the discourses which in turn construct that world. However, because the medium of all literary fiction is language, the 'alternative worlds' of fiction, as of any other universe of discourse, can never be totally autonomous. Their linguistic construction (however far removed from realism they may be) always implicitly evokes the contexts of everyday life. These too are then revealed as linguistically constructed. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 100)
While everyday reality is socially constructed, literary worlds are linguistically constructed on the basis of the socially constructed everyday reality.
Unlike Pale Fire, however, within the novel The White Hotel there is no ambiguity about the fact that this place, 'the camp', exists. Within a 'commonsense' order of discourse, the possibility of clainvoyance and the possibility of life after death are not unusual assumptions. The reader does not have to solve the contradictoriness of the narrative shifts through a recourse to the linguistic status of the worlds constructed through the narrative. He or she does, however, have to recognize the ontological flexibility of the norms of the 'everyday' world. It is thus possible toread The White Hotel, be means of a modernist aesthetic, as a text which foregrounds uncertainty about our perception of the world; or to read it perhaps as a post-modernist text which foregrounds uncertainty about its 'reality' status through a flaunting of its condition of textuality and its ostentatious construction of 'alternative worlds'. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 103)
Flexibility is a good word, for it can be used to describe the bodily or behavioural transformations possible in fiction. E.g. the "impossible" stuff, like a cat buying a ticket from the bus conductor.
Metafictional novels allow the reader not only to observe the textual and linguistic construction of literary fiction, but also to enjoy and engage with the world within the fiction. For the duration of the reading at least, this world is as 'real' as the everyday world. Such novels reveal the duality of literary fictional texts: all fiction exists as words on the page which are materially 'real', and also exists in consciousness as worlds created through these words: 'the aesthetic object belongs to the ideal but has its basis in the real' (Ingarden 1973, p. xxx). The reader is made aware that, in the fiction-reading process, an act of consciousness creates an 'object' that did not exist before. However, the reader is further reminded that this act cannot create anything that could exist outside the dialectic of text and consciousness (anything that has what ingarden calls 'ontic autonomy', or demonstrates what Searle refers to as the 'principle of identification'). (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 104)
A lengthy way to put a paraphrase of the famous T.S. Eliot quote: you are the book while you read it.
Daniel's despair and cynicism about revolutionary protest against Vietnam in the sixties, for example, is shown as a consequence of his childhood history, of the effects of his parents' optimistic, austere and fervent socialist commitment in the fifties.
Yet 'history' is itself shown as a fictional construction. Daniel's 'character' and place in it have been fixed by his parentage. He has no more freedom than a characteri in a fiction (which, of course, he is). There is, he says, 'nothing I can do, mild or extreme, that they cannot have planned for' (p. 74). He is the son of a traitor and therefore a traitor himself. He cannot escape the fiction that is history or the history that is fiction. He cannot escape at a personal level, through his own wife and child, or at a social level, through his acts in the world, or even at the level of language, as a chapter in a novel, writing like Holden Caufield his 'David Copperfield kind of crap' (p. 98). At each narrative level the transformation goes on. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 108)
The literary construction of history... And escapism. I wonder if I should consider the topic of escape in relation with avoidance?
Anna feels her wourld at this particular historical moment to be so radically different from any other, however, that she rejects the possibility of discovering unity in archetypal patterns. Art that expresses such an order is invalidated by contemporary experience. She rejects tradition, for the future may be a completely different reality: 'Terrible, perhaps, or marvellous, but something new' (p. 460). (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 110)
I have felt this too.
The reader accepts the shift, however, because it is mediated through a character who is not only involved but sceptical too. It is continually indicated that Bourani, like the novel itself and Conchis's masques, is explicitly an art-world, a metaphor. The reader is warned early on of this. Nick, looking back at his inauthentic existence at Oxford, reflects that he misinterpreted 'metaphorical descriptions of complex modes of feeling for straightforward presentation of behaviour' (p. 17). The reader is being warned not to do the same. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 111)
This is something that is apt to happen in case of what I have badly termed "ambiguous descriptions" - when metaphors intermingle with descriptions so that it is difficult to make out what the behaviour in question consists of.
Although, as Fowles recognizes, the reality of fiction is primarily verbal, the imaginary world generated by the words of a novel is not less real than, but an alternative to, the everyday world. The Magus is about Nick's attempts to lean to perceive the fictional basis of everything and to distinguish between different orders of fiction. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 112)
Searching for "the fictional basis of everything" sounds kind of like Powys's attempt to find the poetic basis of everything.
Publicity speaks in the future tense and yet the achievement of this future is endlessly deferred. ... It remains credible because the truthfulness of publicity is judged, not by the real fulfilment of its promises, but by the relevance of its fantasies to those of the spectator-buyer. Its essential application is not to reality, but to daydreams. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 114)
Which is why commercials nowadays often don't say anything about the purported product but present aspects of a desirable lifestyle. John Berger, btw, is the same guy who made the neat black-and-white documentaries about art in the 1970s. His "fulfilment' has only one l because it's British English.
More sinister still is, John Barth's The End of the Road (1958). Jacob Horner is a grammar teacher who lives his life on the principle of the generative possibilities of substitution and combination offered by 'mythotheropy', a form of compulsive role-playing. Another character, Joe Morgan, is a logician who obsessively categorizes experience according to the rules of pure logic. Between them they bring about the death of Joe's wife (Jacob's lover) through, in Jacob's case, an avoidance of real responsibility and, in Joe's, the inflexibility and inhumanity which is the result of distorting experience to fit predetermined categories. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 117)
The first sounds like Jakobson and the second like Peirce.
By transferring to the public imagination what they left to the private, we are the more Victorian - in the derogatory sense of the word - century, since we have in destroying so much of the mystery, the difficulty, the aura of the forbidden, destroyed also a great deal of the pleasure. (Fowles 1969, p. 234) (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 124)
The connection between mystery and pleasure is a familiar one, although I lack a theory or material to put it to use.
In 1833, Carlyle observed that the history of the universe is an infinite sacred book that all men write and read and try to understand, and in which they are also written. (Labyrinths, p. 231) (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 127)
Is this the source for Lotman's discussion of the Enlightenment "world as a book" view?
There are almost no characters in this story and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters. (Slaughterhouse-Five, p. 110) (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 128)
Could it be the effect of what Goffman calls self-mortification?
Tralfamadore is, in fact, explicitly an aesthetic fantasy world premised upon a rejection of the philosophical and aesthetic assumptions underpinning realism. It is a Symbolist world. Its own art is created to reveal that art cannot change the world because the world, like art, is fixed for ever. Art should aim simply at creating
an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvellous moments seen all at once.
(Waugh 2003 [1984]: 128)
Thanks to Langer I now know that there is a connection between symbolism, seeing something "all at one time" and what we call continuous semiotic systems.
For some metafictional novelists, an alternative to rejecting a simplistic concept of mimesis (the belief that verbal constructions can somehow directly imitate non-verbal ones) is to assert the opposite narrative pole of diegesis: 'telling' instead of 'showing'. All metafiction draws attention to the fact that imitation in the novel is not the imitation of existing objects but the fabrication of fictional objects which could exist, but do not. For some writers, however, the text may be a fictional construction, but the author is not. All else may be ontologically insecure and uncertain, but behind the uncertainty is a lone Creative Figure busily inventing and constructing, producing the text from His (sic) position in the Real World. And the text, it is usually asserted, is finally the author's:
I want my ideas to be expressed so precisely that the very minimum of room for interpretation is left. Indeed I would go further and say that to the extent that a reader can impose his own imagination on my words, then that piece of writing is a failure. I want him to see my (vision)... (B. S. Johnson, Aren't You Rather Young to be Writing Your Memoirs?, p. 28)
While modernism pursued impersonality ('showing'), such contemporary metafictional texts pursue Personality, the ironic flaunting of the Teller. They reveal, in Genette's words, that, ""montrer", ce ne peut être qu'une façon de raconter' (Genette 1972, p. 187). The appearance of mimesis, of 'showing', is produced, however, by constructing an ostensibly autonomous reality through maximum information and minimum narratorial presence. Metafictional novels which hang on to the concept of author as inventor of the text, which aim to show there are only 'degrés de diegesis' ('degrees of telling'; Genette 1972, p. 186), exaggerate authorial presence in relation to story or information. Very often the Real Author steps into the fictional world, crosses the ontological divide. Instead of integrating the 'fictional' with the 'real' as in traditional omniscient narrative, he or she splits them apart by commenting not on the content of the story but on the act of narration itself, on the construction of the story. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 129-130)
I did not know mimesis has such a connotation (but then again, I haven't read Aristotle's aesthetics). The exact meaning of diegesis also eluded me, but this makes perfect sense (especially in relation with film, where sometimes narrative is diegetic).
The author attempts desparately to hang on to his or her 'real' identity as creator of the text we are reading. What happens, however, when he or she enters it is that his or her own reality is also called into question. The 'author' discovers that the language of the text produces him or her as much as he or she produces the language of the text. The reader is made aware that, paradoxically, the 'author' is situated in the text at the very point where 'he' asserts 'his' identity outside it. As Jacques Ehrmann argues, 'The "author" and the "text" are thus caught in a movement in which they do not remain distinct (the author and the work; one creator of the other) but rather are transposed and become interchangeable, creating and annulling one another' (Ehrmann 1972, p. 32) (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 133)
The other side of linguistic construction.
'Borges' and 'I' have a hostile relationship:
I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. ('Borges and I', in Labyrinths, p. 282)
(Waugh 2003 [1984]: 133)
This is also why I don't keep my "knowledge management" (this blog) private.
By breaking the conventions that separate authors from implied authors from narrators from implied readers from readers, the novel reminds us (who are 'we'?) that 'authors' do not simply 'invent' novels. 'Authors' work through linguistic, artistic and cultural conventions. They are themselves 'invented' by readers who are 'authors' working through linguistic, artistic and cultural conventions, and so on. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 134)
I make so many remarks about similarities to Lotman because he was not an 'inventor' as much as a node in linguistic, scientific and cultural conventions.
The reader is also continually made aware that Daniel exists in the fictional discourse of Fowles, 'an I in the hands of fate ... a paper person in someone else's script' (p. 82). The novel thus becomes the story of writing as much as it is the writing of story. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 136)
In Zamyatin's We we are reminded that we are reading a diary, not a novel.
In Steve Katz's story 'Parcel of Wrists' (1973) a box of human wrists is received through the post, which, when planted, start to produce fruit: eyes, lips, limbs, a crop of legs. (Waugh 2003 [1984]: 141)
Fantastic. "A crop of legs" hit especially close to home as one the pictures I created in my youth was of my leg with a caption saying something like "oh, I found this thing attached to me".
In Brooke-Rose's novel Thru (1975), a text where 'everyone has a voice' (p. 40), there is even a diagram of Jakobson's model of communication with an arrow pointing to 'CODE' (metalinguistic) and the inscription 'you ARE HERE' (p. 51). The theme of the novel is explicitly writing as absence, its implied reader explicitly
the mOre
To a
(p. 163)
(Waugh 2003 [1984]: 147)
That's a neat way to end this post.


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