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A Metafictional Reading of the French Lieutenant’s Woman

Author WangQiang
Tutor GuoLei
School North China Electric Power University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords metafiction narrative strategies fictionality indeterminacy
CLC I561.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
Downloads 55
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John Fowles is a contemporary novelist who enjoys high prestige in English literature world. His novels suit both refined and popular tastes and are widely loved by readers and critics alike. Among his novels, The French Lieutenant’s Woman is considered his masterpiece. Since his publication, The French Lieutenant’s Woman wins tremendous recognition of academic reviewers for its high aesthetic accomplishments. Critics probe into the novel from different aspects such as postmodernism, traditional historicism, neo-historicism, existentialism, and feminism etc. Postmodernism is being talked and written about everywhere in contemporary western society, but the concept of it is ambiguous and is not yet widely understood. Metafiction is a typically postmodernist writing model. Many critics and scholars have made a systematic study on it. The French Lieutenant’s Woman is classified as a metafictional work; this thesis tries to employ the theory of metafiction to interpret the novel.This thesis consists of five parts.Chapter One provides an overview of John Fowles and his The French Lieutenant’s Woman; at the same time, this chapter talks about the literature review of this novel.Chapter Two provides a definition of metafiction and its rising reasons. Then it analyzes the primary metafictional features and the general narrative strategies of metafiction, giving readers a clear image of metafiction.Chapter Three discusses some experimental techniques of metafiction in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. According to David Lodge, Patricia Waugh, and Robert Alter, the intrusive author, parody, collage, anachronism, etc, are some experimental techniques in metafictional work.Chapter Four is the main part of this thesis. It discusses the metafictional themes of The French Lieutenant’s Woman. This chapter is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the fictionality of The French Lieutenant’s Woman and the reconstruction of the Victorian history in the novel. Fictionality of language is the main concern of metafictionists. The second part is about the rebellion against the traditional conventions in this novel. When Fowles uses creative techniques to create the fictional characters and images and plots of the novel, the readers will surely find out the different themes that are represented by the fictional character images and plots. The multiple themes are represented mainly in two ways. One is Fowles’s severe attack on the repressive Victorian age. The other one is Sarah and Charles’s pursuit of freedom.The conclusion is a summary of the thesis and a restatement of the main points of its argument. It points out the fictionality of language, making people reconsidering the relationship between reality and language; and the fictionality and indeterminacy that embodies in the character images, plots and themes of The French Lieutenant’s Woman. It provides an alternative for the development of postwar English novels.

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