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stronger & more flexible

A critical fiction is a piece of fiction* where form (story) and critical content are inseparable (and which explicitly addresses itself as a critique of another work of literature)

* or poetry

A reader asked for a definition of critical fiction in plain speech, and offered the following :
— Would an even simpler definition be : “a story written in the style or form of another story, with the aim of commenting on or illuminating that earlier story” ?

To which I answered :
— But that’s just it, a critical fiction need not be in the style or form of the work it critiques (but it must address or reference the text). In fact, it is sometimes in the collision of differing styles or approaches that an unexpected insight emerges. This exchange prompted me to state the definition which opens this post. I am the blacksmith pounding the steel to make it stronger and more flexible.

And, for now, enough of definition ; the next posts will discuss examples of critical fiction.


One Response to “stronger & more flexible”

  1. Wendy Walker says:

    Critical fiction is certainly not limited to prose fiction, or to the genre in which the work criticized is written. Some of the best known critical fictions are plays:

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard (on Hamlet)

    Macbett by Ionesco (on Macbeth)

    Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry (also Macbeth)

    A Tempest by Aimé Cesaire (The Tempest)

    Lear by Edward Bond (Lear, of course)

    In fact, one could make a case for an entire subcategory of critical fictions that deal with Shakespeare.

    Here are a couple of poetic examples, much more obvious than Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn:

    Caliban Upon Setebos by Robert Browning (The Tempest)

    Berryman’s Sonnets by John Berryman (the Sonnets)

    It would be interesting to look at the number of critical fictions about Shakespeare’s works in the light of Harold Bloom’s ideas in The Anxiety of Influence. Shakespeare is certainly any writer’s ultimate father figure, and target of Oedipal anxiety.

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