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McEwan: Atonement

6. Metafiction

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the theme of metafiction in the novel, focusing in particular on Briony's decision to become her writer, her attempts to involve those around her in narratives of her own making, the tension between realist and imaginative writing, and the importance of storytelling itself.


In this course Dr Allison Adler Kroll (PhD student, University of Oxford) explores Ian McEwan's 2001 novel, Atonement. The course begins with a discussion of the book's title – what is atonement? what is atoned for? – before moving on to discuss the epigraph from Austen's Northanger Abbey that precedes the novel proper. In the third and fourth modules, we think about the form and genre and the novel, before turning in the fifth module to think about some of the major characters – focusing especially on the implications of their names, e.g. Briony and the toxic plant white bryony, Cecilia and the Christian martyr St. Cecilia, Lola and Nabokov's Lolita. After that, in the sixth and seventh modules, we think about two of the major themes in the novel: metafiction and memory.


Allison Adler Kroll is finishing a DPhil on the Whig aristocracy at Merton College, Oxford. She completed a previous doctorate in Victorian and modern literature at UCLA and has lectured at UCLA, Loyola Marymount, and UC Irvine. She has published essays on Tennyson and Hardy, in Victorian Poetry and Nineteenth-Century Contexts respectively, and is currently revising her literary thesis, National Faith: Heritage Culture and English Identity from Tennyson to Byatt, for publication in book form.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Adler Kroll, A. (2018, August 15). McEwan: Atonement - Metafiction [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Adler Kroll, A. "McEwan: Atonement – Metafiction." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,