The three essays in this section illustrate the application of current critical techniques and terminologies to aspects of children's literature. They have in common a link with the Modern Language Association of America: Geoff Moss and Lissa Paul delivered versions of their essays at the MLA Convention in New Orleans in 1988, while Sarah Gilead's work was published in PMLA. Otherwise, their approaches and tones of voice are very different: Moss comes closest to the accessible yet scholarly attitude that is becoming characteristic of the mainstream, synthesizing children's literature criticism; Paul's discourse, as befits her material, is experimental; while Gilead's selection of language is characteristic of the dialect of critical theory (and as such, perhaps less immediately approachable by the layperson). Together, however, they give a good impression of the range, diversity and essential commonality of contemporary criticism.
'Metafiction is a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality' (Waugh 1984:2). As such, it might be supposed that we are dealing with a sophisticated form quite alien to children's literature. But the reverse is true; children-developing readers-live in a world which is far more conscious of and ambivalent about the relationship between fiction and reality than the world of the skilled reader, and children's writers have responded to this, perhaps more than is generally acknowledged. As Anita Moss suggests:
Many novelists have been acutely concerned with the process of creating narrative and with the narrative forms of ordinary life which are embedded throughout fiction. The nature of narrative itself often becomes the real concern in novels and stories. Why characters tell stories and