I've heard little about meta-narrative and meta-fiction before, but I did not understand the concepts. Then I had a week of great literature talks with three other English majors this past Fall. I kept running into them that week, which I'm grateful for. Meta was one of the talks (not metaphysical poetry).
At this point, I had seen an episode of Community where the character Abed makes a meta-film. He states how he'll make a film about a film-maker who realizes his life is a film, whose film-maker will realize his life is a film too, and so on and so on. So I understood that a meta-art form worked beyond its boundaries or was layered with one form inside of another form. A film within a film. However, metanarrative is specifically a story within a story. Metanarrative seems to also have a philosophical approach towards truth. Sounds like the inner story is the material analyzed in the outer story, which the reader himself can analyze too. I'm still trying to understand metanarrative. I know that the novel City of Glass is a example of metanarrative. I read the comicbook/graphic novel version in a class, but I have to read the story a second time.
My friends' description of meta sounded like when the story "breaks down the fourth wall," goes beyond its boundaries, and speaks directly to the reader about its form. Soo I now see a meta-art form as being conscious of itself and commenting on the form. Going with Community again, the character Abed makes the show meta. He comments on what the episode is parodying. He even once stated how his commentary is his gimmick as a character. This aspect of the show is one reason why I watch Community. My friends helped name and define one of my interests.
This week I got my sister to watch one of my childhood movies, The Neverending Story, which I had a feeling was Meta. (SPOILER ALERT) The movie has a metanarrative because it's a story within a story, following a boy reading a book of the same title. The experience explored is the connection between the reader and protagonist. A reader follows the protagonist's journey, feeling and suffering with him. That's why Atreyu saw Bastion in the mirror. Also think about this: Atreyu's journey depended on Bastion's determination to continue reading the story. Bastion is the one continuing and pushing the story.
You can compare this movie to The Princess Bride with the boy's interest in continuing the story, but the only influence he had was whether the audience of the movie would see more the story. The characters do comment a little on the inner story though like with the expectation of a hero vanquishing the villain. I would like to have a metanarrative with the protagonist knowing that he lets the reader see the inner story.
Back to The Neverending Story with my sister and I as the audience, I kept mentioning a wolf scene so when the part came, she seemed disappointed that it was mostly talk. I'm glad she continued to watch the movie though. It is mostly talk and shots of Bastion reading, but I like the metanarrative. I also love the Swamp of Sadness. If you let sadness overtake you, then you will sink. So basically you give up in this journey that needs determined heroes/readers to continue the story. I read somewhere that there was a book before the movie and I found out that the movie only covers half the story. I'm adding the book to my list to see more of the metanarrative commentary. The second half of the book seems to be the movie sequel but the book ends differently.
Another book on my list is a comic/graphic novel called Unwritten. I've only read a few pages so far but I like what I've read that the story's about. It covers fanatic fandom for a series that's like Harry Potter. I am interested in fandom. How a story impacts a fan greatly, the arguments among fans of different stories, and the harm of escapism when not accepting reality. Unwritten also seems to be meta with the boundaries of story and reality, but I think the commentary is more on the fans. The series is three volumes, with the third one coming out in March.
Maybe I'll have another entry about Meta or at least about Unwritten when I've read more of it.