Metalepsis and Participation in Games of Make-Believe
In this paper I will concentrate on how a device as the narrative metalepsis affects the participation in what Kendal Walton calls the games of make-believe. According to Walton, ”viewers of paintings and films, spectators of plays, readers of novels […] participate in the games in which these works are props much as children participate in games” (p. 213). This means that readers and spectators of works of art participate in the worlds of these works in a way that is analogous to how children participate in their games: “Children are almost invariably characters in their games of make-believe”, says Walton (p. 209). Hence the importance of participation in the activities of reception of representational works of art. But Walton is aware that there is another possible reaction to works of art, which he calls “appreciation”. Appreciation is a more distanced, or reflexive, attitude. Appreciation usually involves participation, but this is not always the case. According to Walton, especially the participation of the kind “being caught up in story” (p. 275) is discouraged for instance by works “declaring or displaying their fictionality” (ibid).
Metalepsis would count as a device that breaks the fictional illusion, since it emphasises the boundary between the world of representation and the represented world, according to the definition coined by Gérard Genette. However, it might be argued that metalepsis does not always have an anti-illusionist effect (Wolf, Klimek). In this paper, I will focus on a couple of examples where metalepsis can even be argued to have an illusionist effect. The examples will be taken from different media, something that illustrates Walton’s intermedial view of fictionality. I will thus start with three cases, in painting, children’s literature and detective fiction, where the metalepses clearly encourage participation. I will then analyze two recent films where the use of metalepsis is more complex, especially when it comes to its relation to participation.