Tyll Zybura

Lehre und Lerne | Teach and Learn

Breaking Illusions, Breaking Realities: Metafictional Storytelling

Tyll Zybura | 23 Jan 2017 |

Taught with Katharina Pietsch in Summer 2017.

Course commentary

Fiction is woven into all ... I find this new reality (or unreality) more valid. —John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Fiction creates storyworlds, ‘As-If’s, alternate realities, whole universes, shared fantasies. Metafiction is ‘meta’ because it reflects upon its own creation and createdness, it self-consciously reveals the workings of writers, exposes the construction of the fantasy. It breaks the illusion of fictional reality and provokes its readers to look at story as a product of choices which are ultimately ulterior to the storyworld itself.

In this (admittedly fairly nerdy) seminar, we will read four metafictional novels that reflect upon the reasons for fiction writing with regard to the ethics of writing, its function for personal and social memory culture or for historiography. We will look at theoretical concepts of postmodern metafictionality and we will connect our reading to the fundamental question of what literature is.

Please buy and read the following novels in a format that you can annotate and bring to class:

  • Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth (2012; we’ll start with this novel, so you’ll have to have read it before the beginning of class)

  • Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)

  • John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969)

  • Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (1992; this novel is very beautiful, but quite complex; set aside enough time to read it)

We will also watch selected metafictional films to complement the reading.

Hey, nerdy is the new sexy, right?


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