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Lost in the Funhouse, Ficciones, Tristram Shandy, Jacques le fataliste, Tom Jones

is a term which became current in the 1960s and fashionable in the 1970s and 1980s. It refers to writing which reflects on its own fictional status, fiction about fiction. Such work is not necessarily concerned with fiction as opposed to reality, or its own techniques as opposed to the world beyond the book; it does necessarily acknowledge the presence in the text of a fiction-making mind. John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse (1969) is an oft-cited example, and Barth in turn was much influenced by Jorge Luis Borges's Ficciones (1944). The writing of Samuel Beckett can be thought of as metafictional throughout, and more recently the term has been taken up in film studies, to describe the work of, among others, David Lynch and Woody Allen. Early instances of metafiction would be Sterne's Tristram Shandy (17607) and Diderot's Jacques le fataliste (written 17735, published 1796), and there is much metafictional comment in Fielding's Tom Jones (1749). The most brilliant recent example of the mode is probably Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveller … (1979).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: McTeague to Nancy [Freeman] Mitford Biography