Metafiction and JM Coetzee's Foe
Is writing not a fine thing, Friday? Are you not filled with joy to know that you will live forever, after a manner? (Susan Barton, Foe, 58)
Of the many literary conventions used to describe JM Coetzee's Foe, one of the more commonly written about is metafiction. Since about 1970, the term metafiction has been used widely to discuss works of post-modern fiction and has been the source of heated debate on whether its employ marks the death or the rebirth of the novel. A dominant theme in post-modern fiction, the term "metafiction" has been defined by literary critics in multiple ways. John Barth offers perhaps the most simplified definition: metafiction is "a novel that imitates a novel rather than the real world." Patricia Waugh extends our understanding to add that it is "fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to itself as an artifact to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality." According to these definitions, metafiction concerns itself not with the creation of a new narrative but with the re-creation or re-presentation of another narrative, with its primary intent being to "explore a theory of writing through the practice of writing."(Waugh)
While metafiction is often the focus of post-modern works, it is important to avoid classifying them as one in the same. Metafiction is not the definitive mode of post-modernism, some would argue, and works that are metafictional are not always post-modern, as post-modern works are not always metafictional. Hamlet is often cited as an early work of metafiction, which may be contrasted with the more post-modern Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
Often described as self-conscious, narcissistic, introspective, introverted, and autorepresentational, there are several characteristics and literary techniques that allow the reader to identify whether the work is metafictional. First, metafiction employs intertextual references and allusions by Examining fictional systems, Incorporating aspects of both theory and criticism. Creating biographies of imaginary writers, and presenting and...