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“Night-Sea Journey”. John Barth Lost in the Funhouse. Outline. Introduction: John Barth Lost in the Funhouse : "Oh God comma I abhor self-consciousness.“ “Night-Sea Journey” . Introduction: John Barth. Prolific and influential metafictionist

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night sea journey

“Night-Sea Journey”

John Barth

Lost in the Funhouse

  • Introduction: John Barth
  • Lost in the Funhouse: "Oh God comma I abhor self-consciousness.“
  • “Night-Sea Journey”
introduction john barth
Introduction: John Barth
  • Prolific and influential metafictionist
  • His first few novels are existentialist dark comedy (e.g. The Floating Opera, The End of the Road), and his novels become longer and more intricate (in the over-plotting track).
  • Literature of Exhaustion (1967)
  • Lost in the Funhouse (1968)

-- influenced by the revolutionary

passion of the time,

highly experimental.

literature of exhaustion replenishment
Literature of Exhaustion & Replenishment
  • Exhaustion:
    • Realism –a dead end;
    • Today’s novelists need to confront the exhaustion of realist literary techniques-- “an artist may paradoxically turn the felt ultimacies of our time into material and means for his work -- paradoxically, because by doing so he transcends what had appeared to be his refutation (71). 
    • . . .novels which imitate the form of the Novel, by an author who imitates the role of Author (72)”
    • his own novels as examples –the use of labyrinth
  • Literature of Replenishment: a creative synthesis of realism, modernism and postmodernism.
lost in the funhouse
Lost in the Funhouse
  • Starts with “Frame Tale” -- the Moebius Strip (《魔比斯環》) --endless circle with a twist in the middle. circular, self-referential
  • The growth of Ambrose as a sperm a child and then his struggling with writing  and his mythic tales.
night sea journey1
"Night Sea Journey"
  • Although this story is about a sperm, it can also be interpreted as a story about an artist or human beings in general.
  • Clues – p. 7; 8, 11
  • A swimmer-hero + a She  in a night-sea and maker of future night-seas;
1 different interpretation of the journey
1. Different interpretation of the journey

A. the narrator – lack conviction:  

  • "my own invention?" p. 3; p. 9; out of blind habit 5
  • Exhausted and dispirited. P. 3
  • Reflective moments –wonder, doubt and despair.
  • Two choices: give up and go under; embrace the absurdity p. 5

B. Others or the group:

  • A common Maker N: the journey partakes of their absurdity.
  • “Love! Love!” for Love  ignorance of what whips us. Dream of the Shore.
  • p. 4; out of interest in swimming;
  • p. 5; conformity
  • ambition for race at a younger age p. 8
1 different interpretation of the journey 2
1. Different interpretation of the journey (2):

a cynic’s view

  • Father: pp. 6 -7
    • unconscious;
    • doesn’t care;
    • wishes us unmade;
    • perverse, etc.
  • the end of the journey: extinction? -- nihilism
    • thousands of seas and Makers, Makers in their own sea, pluralism pp. 7-8
the sperm in the present
No longer scoff p. 9 – purged of opinions, etc.

I may be the only survivor, tale-bearer p. 9  may have been drowned;

The new emotion

The friend

Our destination: a mysterious being p. 10 consummation, transfiguration, etc.

A hero stops the cycle, refuses her proffered “immortality.”

The Sperm in the present

What do you think about the ending?

the sperm s decision
The Sperm’s Decision
  • Not love.
  • some unimaginable embodiment of myself (or myself plus Her if that’s how it must be)
  • To You: “stop your hearing against Her song! Hate love!”
  •  senseless love and senseless death.

A. Personal-biological level:

  • End of the life of a sperm (or male ego);
  • sexual intercourse ‘may’ not be for love;

B. Personal-Existential level:

  • Thinkers or doers, we don’t know where the Shore is or whether there is one.
  • There are different interpretations of the “goal” of human life.

C. Global level:

  • We are in a night-sea (or many seas) producing night-seas, which can be productive or self-destructive.