Publication 7659

Breuer R. (1984) Self-reflexivity in literature: The example of Samuel Beckett’s Novel trilogy. In: Watzlawick P. (ed.) The invented reality. Norton, New York: 145–168. Fulltext at
Excerpt: Taking as a point of departure the constructivist concept of self-referentiality, I will attempt to consider the problem of self-reflexivity, which has become so important in modern literature. In other words, I shall attempt to discuss the phenomenon of metaliterature, a literature that, above all, is concerned with itself, that reflects the conditions which make possible its own composition, that treats in general of the possibility of fictional speech, or that questions the basis of the fictional contract between the work and the reader. This attempt concurs with a suggestion in an essay by Heinz von Foerster [10], where, from the fact that there can be no objective perception as such, in other words, no objects without observers, the conclusion is drawn that we need, above all, a theory of the observer or the “describer.” Von Foerster continues that since only living organisms are possible candidates for observers, the construction of such a theory must be the task of the biologist. Since, however, the latter also is a living creature, he must not only take account of himself in his theory, but must also include the theory- building process itself in the theory. This is, in fact, the situation of many writers in the twentieth century who no longer desire to lustily tell stories but have found, just as scientists and philosophers in other fields have found, that their medium language, together with all the traditional processes of writing, has, after a period of optimism, become problematic. Thus they have found themselves forced to reflect on the process of writing itself.

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