When Storyworlds Collide

Metalepsis in Popular Fiction, Film and Comics


One can find it in the classics of experimental literature such as Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy or the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges, but also in the horror and fantasy fiction of Stephen King, in Mel Brooks’s spoof films and Grant Morrison’s superhero comics. The talk is of metalepsis, the transgression of narrative levels. While this device was long perceived as a narratological oddity reserved for avant-garde texts, it has recently emerged as a phenomenon of much wider bearing that exists in numerous media and in popular as well as high culture. When Storyworlds Collide wishes to do justice to this situation and offers both a refined model for the analysis of metalepsis across media and a detailed investigation of the uses and functions of metalepsis in popular culture, thus providing a valuable addition to the burgeoning field of post-classical and transmedial narrative theory.
Starting from a thorough reevaluation of the concept of metalepsis as it is discussed both in classical narratology and more recent endeavours, this book puts forth a deceptively simple yet flexible definition and typology of this device, centred on the violation of the border separating the inside and outside of a storyworld and designed to be transmedially applicable. In a second step, this model is put to the test through an analysis of a wide range of metaleptic narratives drawn from popular fiction, film, and comics. When Storyworlds Collide takes popular culture seriously, employing it neither to merely exemplify theory nor to demonstrate that it is ultimately a knockoff of high culture. Rather, it shows that metalepsis possesses a unique dynamics in popular storytelling and has become an essential device for pop-cultural self-reflection – while still retaining an immense potential to create amusing and entertaining narratives.
This book will be relevant to students and scholars from a wide variety of fields: narrative theory, intermediality and media studies, popular culture as well as literary, film and comics studies.
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EUR €57.00USD $78.00

Review Quotes

“One of the greatest merits of this book is that it provides readers with a convincing and viable definition of metalepsis. Based on a concise review of the dominant theories of metalepsis, starting with Gérard Genette’s original description of the phenomenon, and drawing on concepts from possible worlds theory, in particular Marie-Laure Ryan and Lubomír Doležel, Thoss defines metalepsis as the paradoxical transgression of the line separating the inside from the outside of a storyworld. Unlike Genette, who conceptualizes metalepsis as a hierarchical violation.
As a whole, the book is tightly argued, well-written and thus a pleasure to read. Moreover, Thoss’s threefold typology of metaleptical transgressions is a more than useful addition to the existing literature and theory on metalepsis.”
- Keyvan Sarkhosh, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt am Main, Germany in Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik, (2016) Vol. 41.2 pp. 93-97

Table of contents

List of illustrations

1. Theory
2. Fiction
3. Film
4. Comics