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Title: If only this was a detective novel Self-Referentiality as Metafictionality
Authors: Effron, Malcah
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis constitutes the first attempt to examine formally the use of self-referential forms in the detective genre. By focusing detective fiction’s self-referential invocation of the genre within its narratives, it explores the relation between generic boundaries and the boundaries between reality and fictionality. Because the self-referential moments in detective fiction maintain the realistic representation of the narrative frame, they unselfconsciously indicate the textuality of the detective form, so they never wholly expose the disjuncture associated with metafiction. This creates an impression rather than an awareness of metafictionality. These self-referential moments in detective fiction directly relate to critical explication of metafiction because they negotiate the boundaries of reality and fictionality, particularly as implied in fictional narrative. Since these forms appear throughout detective fiction, my project tracks this self-referential examination of the boundaries of reality and fictionality across subgenre. As this examination continues throughout these forms, self-referentiality in detective fiction suggests that the nature of reality is the one mystery that the detective genre has not— and perhaps cannot—solve. To explore this, Chapter One considers self-referential statements that explicitly acknowledge detective fiction and its tropes, which I call overt self-referentiality. Chapter Two broadens the criteria, examining intrageneric intertextuality, where the texts refer to classic examples of detective conventions. Chapter Three explores the self-referentiality implicit in the figure of the detective protagonist who is a detective writer. The self-referentiality in these moments metafictively engages with the boundaries of text and criticism and of reality and fictionality. By considering how these moments work simultaneously to construct and deconstruct the boundaries of the genre, this study of self-referentiality provides a method for considering deviations as a means of underscoring, rather than simply undermining, our understanding of what constitutes a novel. As it exposes the critical analysis of literary construction embedded within the detective genre, this thesis challenges both the division between the popular and the literary and the dominant association of metafictionality with experimental art, revealing the philosophical debates about the nature of reality in literary realms not traditionally considered as metafictional.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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