Despite Episcopo's title for his foreword--"an untimely beginning"--, Metahistorical Narratives and Scientific Metafictions
is a timely book for two main reasons.
This first English translation of Tatsuaki Ishiguro's metafictions
comprises four stories about the last specimens of exceedingly rare, geographically isolated species facing extinction: tiny winged mice that glow and shed tears; a white-haired, amnesiac young woman, her body temperature far below the human norm; a lovely, white, transparent weed, its glow radioactive; a tasty sea squirt, its ugly cancerous tumors both symbiotic and healing.
Insistence thus makes two interconnected claims: first, we should not be seduced by the immateriality of a capitalism gone virtual but must instead appreciate how contemporary commodity culture relies on the biopolitical management of material bodies, the offshoring of material production, and the real-life immiseration of marginalized populations across the global north and south; second, we should not reduce later twentieth-century literature to postmodern metafictions
linguistic turn and must instead appreciate the counter-tradition of authors who foreground the materiality of contemporary existence.
Examining these texts in the order of their publication, I will pose three main questions: What makes them historiographic metafictions
, in the sense given to this term by Hutcheon and other narrative theorists?
Fictions and Metafictions
of Evil: Essays in Literary Criticism, Comparative Literature and Interdisciplinary Studies
Indeed, many of the so-called antinovels are really metafictions
To those accustomed to reading Clarence Major's wonderfully self-reflexive metafictions
such as Reflex and Bone Structure and Emergency Exit, his new novel One Flesh will come as quite a surprise since it is, formally at least, a conventional "realistic" novel complete with linear plot, a fully reified setting, plausible characters, and a stable third person point of view.
McCallum writes that it is necessary to consider 'the specific strategies through which metafictions
play with literary and cultural codes and conventions' (1996, p.
Fame and reputation function as commodities, and characters in contemporary Austen metafictions
subject themselves, others, and Austen to assessment within a cultural market.
The extremely disruptive narrative strategies and linguistic innovations of these early metafictions
led Robert Alter to remark in 1975 that "one can admire the virtuosity with which narrative materials are ingeniously shuffled and reshuffled yet we feel a certain aridness; for the partial magic of a novelist's art, however self-conscious, is considerably more than a set of card tricks" (222).
Thus while Goodman's metafictions
do explore the forces of signification, they also investigate historical forces that shape the social.
Using historiographic metafiction
as a case study, I will attempt to demonstrate that the analytical tools provided by "classical" narratology can be of great use for cultural analyses and context-sensitive interpretations of historiographic metafictions
, and of course of other historical narratives, as well as for other concerns of contemporary "postclassical" narratologies, including generic categorization.