Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Intertwined Markings: Metafiction in the Digital Age maps the historical and thematic relationship between video games and contemporary works of metafiction first by detailing the intertwined histories of video games and contemporary metafiction, and then by applying new materialist and game studies methodologies to both video games and contemporary novels. Not only does the height of postmodern metafiction directly coincide with the introduction of home consoles and the golden age of arcade video games in the 1970s, but the same postmodern works considered to be canonical in metafiction studies are also those lauded as the first hypertexts in new media studies. I argue that works like Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” and Nabokov’s Pale Fire anticipate multicursal narratives and forefront interactivity, two techniques that have come to define contemporary games. It is no wonder then that both contemporary video games and contemporary novels use metafiction in order to posit inquiries concerning the materiality of their medium, as well as the material makeup of their readers/players, and do so in ways that foreground their technological influence.

The interdisciplinary theory of metafiction outlined in Intertwined Markings calls for a critical rethinking of contemporary metafiction in the digital age. I argue that because contemporary metafiction forefronts its digital influence, an interdisciplinary approach that combines traditional narratology with newer methods in digital media theory is crucial for understanding the socio-political arguments these media texts construct for audiences. Furthermore, transposing games studies methods onto the field of metafiction studies restructures our understandings of not only these texts, but the larger conventions of literary production, since 1) the historical development of new media forms and the history of metafiction are fundamentally connected, and 2) the goal of metafiction has always been to create self-referential spaces for play in order to pose questions about the implicit conventions of all literary works. The history of video games is the history of metafiction; recognizing this allows us to read narrative texts in ways we could not otherwise.

Date

2-27-2019

Committee Chair

Costello, Brannon

Available for download on Wednesday, February 25, 2026

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