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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mediation and the indirect metafiction of Randolph Stow, M. K. Joseph, and Timothy Findley Ingham, David Keith


In order to explore the range of indirect metafiction as presented in three exemplary novels, this dissertation begins by examining how the assumptions of "realism" on the one hand and "postmodernism" on the other relate to the paradigmatic triad of story-teller, story, and audience. From this context emerges the view that the range of metafiction is determined by how it reveals the processes and nature of fiction according to a spectrum of mediation: that of the writer between his "raw materials" and the text, that of the text between writer and reader, and that of the reader between the text and his interpretation. Indirect metafiction (or "pretend realism") mediates between realism and postmodernism, revealing without breaking the illusions of realism. Each of the next three chapters, after initially placing the key novel within the context of the author's work as a whole, discusses in detail a novel whose metafictional focus is on one of the three mediations. Accordingly, Chapter II focusses on Randolph Stow's The Girl Green as Elderflower (1980) and on the way it reveals the mediation of the author by presenting a writer's fiction as a synthesis of his personal and literary experiences. Chapter III notes how M. K. Joseph's A Soldier's Tale (1976) reflects the mediation of the reader by depicting a writer's interpretation and literary redaction of an oral tale. And Chapter IV shows how Timothy Findley's Famous Last Words (1981) demonstrates the mediation of the text by presenting a writer whose text "crystallizes" the illusions of fiction, then undercuts and exposes them. The analyses of the key texts employ both postmodern and traditional critical approaches, demonstrating them to be complementary; by noting the interpenetration of metafictional and traditional import and significance, the analyses also highlight the mediary nature of indirect metafiction. The fifth chapter draws theoretical conclusions from ideas in the practical chapters: from metafictional revelations through the paradigm of mediation comes an "anatomy" of fiction, delineating its elements; from a sense of how the mind "structures" experience through "fictional" representations of both "reality" and fictional texts comes a "physiology," a sense of how fiction works through language. This discussion leads to definitions of realistic, unrealistic, and self-conscious fiction, and of metafiction, both direct and indirect; the dissertation concludes by remarking on the inter-relations of language, "fiction," and "reality."

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