Historiographic metafiction

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Historiographic metafiction is a term coined by Canadian literary theorist Linda Hutcheon in the late 1980s. The term is used for works of fiction which combine the literary devices of metafiction with historical fiction. Works regarded as historiographic metafiction are also distinguished by frequent allusions to other artistic, historical and literary texts (i.e. intertextuality) in order to show the extent to which works of both literature and historiography are dependent on the history of discourse.[1]

The term is closely associated with works of postmodern literature, usually novels. According to Hutcheon, in "A Poetics of Postmodernism", works of historiographic metafiction are "those well-known and popular novels which are both intensely self-reflexive and yet paradoxically also lay claim to historical events and personages".[2] Works often described as examples of historiographical metafiction include John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969), E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime (1975), William Kennedy's Legs (1975), Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981), A. S. Byatt's Possession (1990), Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient (1992), Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon (1997) and many others. By seeking to represent both actual historical events from World War Two while, at the same time, problematizes the very notion of doing exactly that Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) features a metafictional, "Janus-headed" perspective.[3]

Authors associated with historiographic metafiction[edit]


  1. ^ Bolland, John (2002). Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient: A Reader's Guide. London, UK: Continuum. p. 54. ISBN 0-8264-5243-4. 
  2. ^ a b Hutcheon 5
  3. ^ Jensen, Mikkel (2016) "Janus-Headed Postmodernism: The Opening Lines of Slaughterhouse-Five" in The Explicator, 74:1, 8-11.

Works cited[edit]