Taking Meta to Another Level: Experimental Self-Reflexivity in Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales (2014)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


This paper explores the experimental use of self-reflexivity in Telling Tales (2014) by Patience Agbabi, a contemporary take on Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval Canterbury Tales. Katrijn Van den Bossche follows Sarah Upstone’s (2015, 292) argument that self-reflexivity can function as “a strategy in the service of identity politics” and pursues a revision of previous theories of metafiction that have dissociated self-reflexivity from political engagement. Agbabi highlights contemporary crises of form and culture – e.g. crises of belonging and of commercial art – through self-reflexive devices such as mise-en-abyme, reader addresses, typefaces, embedded intertextuality, etc. Moreover, the metalevel of each individual poem is amplified by the work’s frame and often results in a foregrounding or subversion of generic conventions of the traditional tales. Thus, drawing on theories concerning genre, feminism, and postcolonialism, this paper argues that self-reflexivity can function as a catalyst for generic change and aims to delineate the political, cultural, and aesthetic functions of metafiction.
Period1 Mar 20234 Mar 2023
Event title2023 International Conference on Narrative
Event typeConference
LocationDallas, United States, Texas
Degree of RecognitionInternational