Acknowledging the lie: extreme self-consciousness in contemporary fantasy fiction



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Texas Tech University


Self-consciousness is as much a part of human existence as any other mode of thought. For the person who is on the threshold of the twenty-first century, the process of considering one's own existence in light of the overwhelming external factors of "reality" is actually necessary to his or her fundamental well-being, and this situation has always been the case during the evolution of humanity. One must only look at the great body of mythological, religious, and philosophical literature—and the immense body of literature itself--to determine that we have always been a self-conscious species, concerned about how and why people exist in the first place.

Nobody should wonder, then, that our stories, too, become as self-conscious as we are. When a story shows self-awareness, which it can do through a variety of narrative techniques, it becomes metafictional. In this dissertation, I explore the reasons that, in the past century, both our societies and the literature coming out of those societies have moved toward an extreme self-consciousness. In particular, I limit the type of literature to those forms which scholars call the "fantastic," including myths, legends, and folktales. The ultimate goal of this dissertation is to show the way that contemporary fantasy fiction is moving toward an extreme self-consciousness, as exemplified by the works of Peter S. Beagle.