HomeMetafiction and reflexivity on screen

HomeMetafiction and reflexivity on screen

Metafiction and reflexivity on screen

Métafiction et réflexivité au cinéma

*  *  *

Published on Thursday, December 27, 2018 by Elsa Zotian

Summary

In the wake of Robert Stam’s analysis, reflexivity can be considered as the use of devices meant to draw the reader’s or spectator’s attention to the fictional and/or artificial quality of representation. Reflexivity may also be found in works that reveal what goes on behind the scenes of cinematographic creation. By contrast, metafiction—as it was defined by Patricia Waugh—implies the production of a critical discourse on a text or a film as a work of fiction, and a critical discourse on the medium itself, whether it is film or literature. ttention should be paid, of course, not only to the forms of reflexivity and metafiction in film, but also to its aims. It may be conceived of as a distancing device serving to detach the viewer from imaginary identification, or a way to exploit avant-garde innovations in commercial form, notably in Hollywood productions. 

Announcement

Argument

Reflexivity in art is not a practice that is specific to the postmodern period, as a number of critics have noted. Robert Stam reminds us that Homer often designates his own enunciation as one of the topics of his text. We find similar examples of self-reference concerning the writer or the creative process in the writings of Lawrence Sterne, long before the reflexive strain that characterized authors from the second half of the 20th C (William Gass, Vladimir Nabokov or John Fowles among others). Likewise, cinematographic reflexivity does not appear circumscribed by a period beginning after 1950. As soon as the silent era, self-consciousness in the medium is manifest: the cameraman in The Big Swallow (James Williamson, 1901) engulfed by the camera eye testifies to this phenomenon, just like, in a different context, Sherlock Junior (Buster Keaton, 1924), which uses various innovative devices to stage the adventures of a projectionist who falls asleep during a show and dreams that he is acting as a great detective. The same reflexive slant is visible in documentaries or in experimental films like The Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929) or Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch, Edgar Morin, 1961) where the filmmakers appear several times on screen while they are shooting the film itself—see Bill Nichols’s (2001) category of “reflexive documentary.” Because reflexivity is such a widespread phenomenon, its motivations and forms beg to be considered more precisely.

A first step in this process is to distinguish metafiction from reflexivity. In the wake of Robert Stam’s analysis (p. 159), reflexivity can be considered as the use of devices meant to draw the reader’s or spectator’s attention to the fictional and/or artificial quality of representation. Reflexivity may also be found in works that reveal what goes on behind the scenes of cinematographic creation. By contrast, metafiction—as it was defined by Patricia Waugh—implies the production of a critical discourse on a text or a film as a work of fiction, and a critical discourse on the medium itself, whether it is film or literature. Metafiction thus refers to a more elaborate practice than reflexivity, which can be limited to self-referential games around fiction or to artificial devices, without opening onto larger questions bearing on the medium itself and on the question of fictionality in the work itself (or, sometimes, in just any work of fiction). Secondly, we must note that the metafictional or reflexive quality of a work appears differently in literature and in cinema. In literature, it can take the form of a discourse on the text—or on writing in general—and be inscribed within the text itself. This calls to mind texts which include writers commenting on their own works, but also texts dealing with literary influences on the fictional diegesis (such as Madame Bovary and Don Quixote).

The transposition of a metafictional discourse is often more difficult in the cinematographic medium because the representation of the cinematic technical apparatus is less realistically integrated in a fiction film than in writing, which may use cases of interpretation within the diegesis to justify reflexive episodes. Films staging directors—such as Day for Night (François Truffaut, 1973), 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963) and Living in Oblivion (Tom DiCillo, 1995)—resort to stories focused on the shooting of a film and not only on the influence of fiction within fiction, as this may be the case in literary metafictional works. This statement can be qualified by the fact that many films evince their reflexivity through isolated citations of other films or audiovisual materials, for instance through the insertion of an autonomous sequence, distinct from the first narrative level, and that acts as a reference. Yet, in this case, such citations are in themselves no guarantee of a metafictional perspective developed in the films, since this perspective requires theoretical and topical distance towards the medium. More largely, the overlapping of narrative boundaries—which Gérard Genette calls metalepses—may function differently from one medium to another; it can consist in the passage from one narrative to another (as with the play within the play in Hamlet) meant to signify an interaction between the initial diegesis and the metafictional text, but in cinema this passage needs to be motivated in the story; this occurs in The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, 1985) when two narrative levels encroach upon one another. Yet again these metalepses may appear artificial in cinema due to the uneasy diegetic justification, in a realistic frame, of this interaction between narrative levels, whereas literary texts may integrate references to other literary discourses more unobtrusively and with less constraint as regards the devices used.

Attention should be paid, of course, not only to the forms of reflexivity and metafiction in film, but also to its aims. Although the term “metafiction” seems to have become a common idiom in contemporary fan culture (through the use of the prefix “meta”), what is at stake in this issue is diversely regarded, especially if we consider recent filmic productions. It may be conceived of as a distancing device serving to detach the viewer from imaginary identification (as in Stam’s argument, which adopts a Brechtian perspective), or a way to exploit avant-garde innovations in commercial form, notably in Hollywood productions. The striking changes visible in these practices, starting from the first full-length studies focused on the topic in literature (notably by Linda Hutcheon and Patricia Waugh), namely the fact that reflexivity seems to have spread beyond the limited circle of auteur cinema, also suggests that the reception of these devices in mainstream cinema was influenced by a more general evolution of forms and practices in the medium itself. Filmic self-reference may be more relevant today, due to the diversity of modes of consumption and perception of films—visible through the popularity of series, the use of VOD and streaming, or the production of films direct to internet. This may also point to a change in the ontology of film, through the increase in CGI and online viewing. This situation makes it all the more necessary to question the very nature of cinema and the potential end of cinema (Gaudreault and Marion), through this reflexive and metafictional discourse. This discourse thus contextually points to an interest in the redefinition of the medium itself, but also to a redefinition of the spectator’s role in the cinematic apparatus.

These avenues eventually suggest a possible link with a poetics of cinema, as explored by Christian Metz. The specific way reflexivity manifests itself in cinema can thus be related to some features in film aesthetics determined by a form of reflexivity at work in the medium itself and thus beyond the narrative discourse, as Christian Metz suggested in Impersonal enunciation or the site of film.

This conference thus invites talks on the following topics:

  • The evolution of reflexive and/or metafictional devices in the history of cinema, notably in relation to technological (r)evolutions (sound, Internet, digital, etc.)
  • The labeling and conceptual differences between reflexivity, metafiction, metafilm, metacinema, frame narratives
  • The role of reflexivity and/or metafiction in defining an artist’s aesthetic identity, and thus in her/his poetics
  • The reception of reflexive devices or metafictional discourses
  • The narrative and structural outcome of reflexive or metafictional strategies in a given work
  • The specificity of reflexive devices according to cinematic forms (feature films or short films), modes (documentaries, fictions, experimental cinema) or genres (slapstick, film noir, melodrama, social drama, epics, romances, etc.)
  • The practices, techniques and implementation of metafiction in cinema
  • The emergence of metafiction determined by a cultural context

We shall have the pleasure to welcome Dr. Daniel Yacavone, from the University of Edinburgh, who will be our keynote speaker (https://www.ed.ac.uk/profile/dan-yacavone).

Fees

The conference will take place at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Clermont Ferrand, central France. Registration fees are 40 euros for lecturers, professors or independent scholars and 20 euros for students. Accommodation will be provided freely for the participants by the research centres.

Submission guidelines

The conference organizers will welcome proposals from confirmed scholars as well as from doctoral students. A publication of peer-reviewed texts will be proposed by the organizers. Proposals should include a 300-word abstract with a bibliography and a short biography.

Thank you for sending your proposals to all three following addresses : Caroline.Lardy@uca.fr, Christophe.Gelly@uca.fr, mudrockca@gmail.com

by 1st April 2019

Scientific commitee

  • Julien Achemchame (Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier)
  • Zachary Baqué (Université Jean Jaurès, Toulouse)
  • Alain Boillat (Université de Lausanne)
  • Fatima Chinita (Lisbon Polytechnic Institute)
  • Robert von Dassanowsky (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs)
  • Sarah Hatchuel (Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier)
  • Sébastien Lefait (Université Paris 8)
  • Shannon Wells-Lassagne (Université de Bourgogne, Dijon)

Bibliography

  • ALTER, Robert, Partial Magic: The Novel as a Self-conscious Genre, Berkeley : University of California Press, 1975.
  • BOILLAT, Alain, “Stranger than Fiction : Métalepse de Genette et quelques univers filmiques contemporaines,” Cinéma & Cie, vol XII, no. 18 (Spring 2012): 21-31.
  • BOYD, Michael, The Reflexive Novel: Fiction as Critique, London: Associated Presses, 1983.
  • CERISUELO Marc, Hollywood à l’Ecran, Essai de poétique historique des films : l’exemple des métafilms américains, Paris, éd. des Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, coll. « L’œil vivant »,  Paris, Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2001
  • DÄLLENBACH, Lucien, « Mise en abyme », Dictionnaire des genres et des notions littéraires, Paris, Encyclopedia. Universalis et Albin Michel, 1997.
  • DÄLLENBACH, Lucien, Le récit spéculaire. Essai sur la mise en abyme, Paris, éd. du Seuil, coll. « Poétique », 1977.
  • DIKA, Vera (2003). Recycled Culture in Con- temporary Art and Film. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
  • FÉVRY, Sébastien, La mise en abyme filmique. Essai de typologie, Liège, éd. de fournitures et d'aides pour la lecture, coll. « Grand écran, petit écran. Essais », 2000.
  • FREDERICKSEN, Don (1979). Modes of Reflexive Film. Quarterly review of film studies, 4(3), 299-320.
  • GAUDREAULT André et Philippe MARION, La Fin du Cinéma ? Un média en crise à l’ère du numérique, Paris, Armand Colin, 2013.
  • GENETTE, Gérard, Métalepse, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. « Poétique », 2004.
  • GENETTE, Gérard, Palimpsestes : la littérature au second degré, Paris : Seuil, Essais, 1982.
  • GERSTENKORN, Jacques, « À travers le miroir, (notes introductives) », Vertigo, n° 1, Le cinéma au miroir, Paris, 1987.
  • HUTCHEON, Linda, Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox, New York & London : Methuen, 1984.
  • JOURNOT, Marie-Thérèse, Le Vocabulaire du cinéma, (sous la dir. de Michel Marie), Paris, éd. Nathan Université, coll. « 128 », 2003.
  • LIMOGES, Jean-Marc (2008). Mise en abyme et réflexivité dans le cinéma contemporain: Pour une distinction de termes trop sou- vent confondus. Les Actes de la Sesdef (La Société des études supérieures du Département d ́Études françaises de l ́Université de Toronto).
  • METZ, Christian, L’énonciation impersonnelle ou le site du film, Paris, éd. Méridiens Klincksieck, 1991.
  • MOUREN, Yannick, Filmer la création cinématographique : Le film-art poétique, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2009.
  • NICHOLS, Bill, Introduction to Documentary 3rd edition. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2017 [2001].
  • ROCHE, David, Quentin Tarantino: Poetics and Politics of Cinematic Metafiction. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2018. 352 p.
  • ROSE, Margaret A., Parody/Metafiction : An Analysis of Parody as a Critical Mirror to the Writing and Reception of Fiction, London : Croom Helm, 1979.
  • SIEGLE, Robert, The Politics of Reflexivity, Baltimore & London : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.
  • STAM, Robert, Reflexivity in Film and Literature : from Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard, Michigan, UMI Research Press, coll. « Studies in cinema », 1985.
  • TAKEDA, Kiyoshi, « Le cinéma auto-réflexif : quelques problèmes méthodologiques », Iconics, The Japan Society of Image Art ans Sciences, 1987.
  • WAUGH, Patricia, Metafiction : The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction, London & New York : Routledge, New Accents, 1985.

Places

  • Amphi 125 - Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, 4 rue Ledru
    Clermont-Ferrand, France (63)

Date(s)

  • Monday, April 01, 2019

Attached files

Keywords

  • métafiction, cinéma, esthétique, sémiologie

Contact(s)

  • Christophe Gelly
    courriel : cgelly [at] yahoo [dot] fr
  • David Roche
    courriel : mudrockca [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Caroline Lardy
    courriel : caroline [dot] lardy [at] uca [dot] fr

Information source

  • Christophe Gelly
    courriel : cgelly [at] yahoo [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Metafiction and reflexivity on screen », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, December 27, 2018, https://calenda.org/530350

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search