"It Would Have Been Something Worth Reading": Narrative, Pleasure, and Ideology in the Post-War Metafictional Novel
Barth, Josie Torres
The act of narrating has ethical and political implications that often go unexplored in the realist novel. Metafictional texts foreground this problem of telling by referring to their construction, questioning the assumptions and ideology of their form. After WWII, recognition of the ideological power of narrative triggered a crisis in representation. The metafictional novel represents one response to the following questions: how does one write when logic, language, and realist representation can no longer be taken for granted? How can artistic forms reflect postwar conditions of existence, and how can they overcome the problems of ideology inherent in realist representation? In this project, I examine the attempts of two authors writing in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War to overcome these problems of realist representation in the novel. Samuel Beckett and Vladimir Nabokov write in two very different styles that both seek to answer some of the same questions. The effects of these two styles-- causing the reader to notice and question his own reading practice, and requiring him to become an active creator of the text's meaning--work on the reader in the same way. By calling attention to their constructedness and contingency, these metafictional texts attempt to push the limits of what is possible in the form of the novel. In order to accomplish this, I explore the role that textual pleasure plays in the formation of subject identification in the realist novel, and how this process of identification is challenged in the metafictional text.
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