Children’s literature

Part II. Forms and genres

 

45. Metafictions and experimental work

 

Robyn McCallum

 

Conclusions

 

An increasingly noticeable phenomenon has been the appropriation of experimental and metafictive narrative techniques into mainstream children’s literature, an occurrence which blurs the distinctions between experimental and non-experimental, between the mainstream and the marginal. However, a key distinction between experimental and non-experimental writing for children lies in the audience positions constructed within

texts. As experimental and metafictive features become more superficial aspects of a text’s construction, and hence more conventionalised and formulaic, the range of interpretive positions inscribed in texts becomes increasingly restricted. Many of the techniques and strategies which I have described are not in themselves ‘experimental’ or ‘metafictive’, though they have the capacity to function in these ways when used in combination either with each other or with particular discursive and narrational modes. Metafictive and experimental forms of children’s writing generally utilise a wide range of narrative and discursive strategies which distance readers from texts, and construct implied readers who are more actively involved in the production of meanings. By drawing attention to the ways in which texts are structured and to how they mean, metafictions can potentially teach readers specific codes and conventions and interpretive strategies with which to read and make sense of other, more closed, fictions. Furthermore, to the extent that we use language and narrative to represent and comprehend reality, as well as to construct fictions, metafictions can, by analogy, show readers how representations of reality are similarly constructed and ascribed with meanings.

 

References

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Mackey, M. (1990) ‘Metafiction for Beginners: Allan Ahlberg’s Ten in a Bed’, Children’s Literature in Education 21, 3: 179-87.

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Further reading

Currie, M. (ed.) (1995) Metafiction, New York: Longman.

Didicher, N. E. (1997) ‘The Children in the Story: Metafiction in Mary Poppins in the Park’, Children’s Literature in Education 28, 3: 137-49.

Jones, D. (1999) ‘Only Make Believe? Lies, Fictions and Metafictions in Geraldine McCaughrean’s A Pack of Lies and Philip Pullman’s Clockwork, The Lion and the Unicorn 23, 1: 86-96.

Mackey, M. (1999) ‘Playing in the Phase Space: Contemporary Forms of Fictional Pleasure’, Signal 88: 16-33.

Ommundsen, W. (1993) Metafictions? Reflexivity in Contemporary Texts, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Stephens, J. and McCallum, R. (1998) Retelling Stories, Eraming Culture. Traditional Story and Metanarratives in Children’s Literature, New York and London: Garland.

Stevenson, D. ‘ “If You Read This Last Sentence, It Won’t Tell You Anything”: Postmodernism, Self-referentiality, and The Stinky Cheese Man,’ Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 19, 1: 35-40.

Trites, R. S. (1994) ‘Manifold Narratives - Metafiction and Ideology in Picture Books’, Children’s Literature in Education 25, 4: 225-42.