Beyond the Metafictional Mode

Beyond the Metafictional Mode: Directions in the Modern Spanish Novel

Robert C. Spires
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Metafictional Mode
    Book Description:

    The term metafiction invaded the vocabulary of literary criticism around 1970, yet the textual strategies involved in turning fiction back onto itself can be traced through several centuries. In this theoretical/critical study Robert C. Spires examines the nature of metafiction and chronicles its evolution in Spain from the time of Cervantes to the 1970s, when the obsession with novelistic self-commentary culminated in an important literary movement.

    The critical portions of this study focus primarily on twentieth-century works. Included are analyses of Unamuno'sNiebla, Jarnés'sLocura y muerte de nadieandLa novia del viento, Torrente Ballester'sDon Juan, Cunquiero'sUn hombre que se parecía a Orestes, and three novels from the "self-referential" movement of the 1970s, Juan Goytisolo'sJuan sin Tierra, Luis Goytisolo'sLa colera de Aquiles, and Martín Gaite'sEl cuarto de atrás.

    Seeking a stronger theoretical basis for his critical readings, Spires offers a sharpened definition of the term metafiction. The mode arises, he declares, through an intentional violation of the boundaries that normally separate the worlds of the author, the fiction, and the reader. Building on theoretical foundations laid by Frye, Scholes, Genette, and others, Spires also proposes a literary paradigm that places metafiction in a position intermediate between fiction and literary theory.

    These theoretical formulations place Spires's book in the forefront of critical thought. At the same time, his full-scale analyses of Spanish metafictional works will be welcomed by Hispanists and other students of world literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6454-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Metafictional Mode
    (pp. 1-17)

    Several studies of the historical development of metafiction in the European and American novel already exist, the most famous being Robert Alter’sPartial Magic.¹ Although the subtitle of Alter’s book isThe Novel as a Self-Conscious Genre, he does not attempt to define metafiction’s generic or modal components. He offers instead a series of descriptive analyses of self-conscious narration as it appears in works dating fromDon QuijotetoPale Fire. His study, therefore, shows a great deal of metafiction’s artistic flexibility but very little of its theoretical basis. His working definition of the concept, however, is important. He defines...

  5. Chapter One Violations and Pseudo-Violations: Quijote, Buscón, and “La novela en el tranvía”
    (pp. 18-32)

    As I begin this examination of the precursors of the Spanish metafictional mode with works of Cervantes, Quevedo, and Galdós, I confess to a certain inhibition upon entering such well charted waters. I feel compelled to emphasize, therefore, that my analyses of theQuijoteandBuscónwill be limited to those episodes featuring the metafictional mode; only in the case of the Galdós short story do I attempt anything resembling a complete reading. The analyses in this chapter are designed to demonstrate and thereby clarify the concept of violation—the textual strategy of breaking the arbitrary conventions of fiction. By...

  6. Chapter Two Fiction on a Palimpsest: Niebla
    (pp. 33-44)

    The twentieth century in Spanish literary history was ushered in by what is popularly known as the Generation of’98. Although the date refers to the end of the nineteenth century (the Spanish American War of 1898), the novelists identified with this generation rebelled against nineteenth-century literary expression, especially against the tenets of realism. Innovation, therefore, was one of their primary concerns, and in the novel the innovations inevitably led to various forms and degrees of novelistic self-commentary.

    One prominent form of novelistic self-commentary involves interior duplication, or what has been defined as “autotextualité.”¹ In its most obvious manifestation this is...

  7. Chapter Three Codes versus Modes: Locura y muerte de nadie and La novia del viento
    (pp. 45-57)

    Notwithstanding the example ofNieblaand of some other novels mentioned at the beginning of the previous chapter, the metafictional mode is not predominant in the Generation of ’98. Indeed, before critics became obsessed with metafiction,Nieblawas read primarily for its existential content. As suggested in the previous chapter, the self-commentary of the novels of the Generation of ’98 can be seen primarily as anti-realist techniques. That is to say, by eschewing the illusion that they are about real people involved in real events, the novels of the Generation of ’98 foreground their own literariness; they indirectly comment on...

  8. Chapter Four Rebellion against Models: Don Juan and Orestes
    (pp. 58-71)

    The so-called “art for art’s sake” movement of the 1920s and 1930s came to an abrupt end with the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Although it would be an exaggeration to say that novelistic activity ceased completely during the war years,¹ most of the works emerging from that period are significant for historical rather than artistic reasons. Camilo josé Cela’sLa familia de Pascual Duarte[The Family of Pascual Duartein the English version], published in 1942 and soon followed by other novels displaying similar techniques, was the first of a new group whose artistic merits enabled them to transcend their...

  9. Chapter Five Process as Product: Juan sin Tierra
    (pp. 72-88)

    When, metafiction is defined as a mode, as proposed in the Introduction to this study, it forms a polar opposite to reportorial fiction. That is to say, the reportorial mode points almost directly at extratextual reality while the metafictional mode tends to point back at the work itself. Both modes, nevertheless, can appear in the same novel, as indeed is the case in numerous examples from Galdós. (While not exactly the reportorial mode, Galdosian realism is close to it.) Furthermore, since modes are atemporal, we find dramatic examples of the metafictional mode fromDon Quijoteto the present. Yet prior...

  10. Chapter Six Reading-into-Being: La cólera de Aquiles
    (pp. 89-106)

    As I proposed in the Introduction and have been arguing throughout this study, there are three basic levels of reading and readers inherent in any fictional text. Each speaker within the world of the story directs his or her discourses to the text addressee, explicit or implicit, embedded within that world. The sum total of the intratextual messages equals another message directed beyond the boundaries of the story to a text-act reader. Finally real readers, in order to apprehend the work’s message, project themselves into the role of the text-act reader, a projection that at best can be only partially...

  11. Chapter Seven Product Preceding Process: El cuarto de atrás
    (pp. 107-124)

    In the two categories previously proposed for the Spanish self-referential novel the narrating instance is foregrounded. Since the narrating instance involves both a sender and a receiver, the first group is identified as author-focused and the second as reader-focused. The first group examines the process of creating the written work through the act of writing, and the second group explores the same process through the act of reading. In either case the emphasis is shifted from the product (story) to the process (act of narrating). In the third group the emphasis is directed back to the story, but in such...

  12. Afterwords
    (pp. 125-128)

    Throughout this study I have defined metafiction as the violation of fictional modes, and have used that definition as the unifying focus for all the analyses. Whereas the term violation may seem somewhat extreme in some cases, I have intended it in the same sense that speech act theorists define flouting, for example, as one means of violating the Cooperative Principle.¹ Just as flouting modifies but does not destroy the speech act, so modal violations modify but do not destroy the essence of fiction. The Cooperative Principle can be violated in multiple ways and with untold effects; fictional modes can...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 129-140)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 141-148)
  15. Index
    (pp. 149-153)