Barth Lity Hello My Name Is Fadi Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Barth, LITY)

Hello, my name is Fadi Awwad. Apologies for the late submission -- for some reason the due date was not showing on my Blackboard! The most recent book I read that really subverted the concept of Freytag's Triangle was probably The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. In the spring semester 2014, I wrote a research paper on Pynchon for a course on postmodern narrative here at UHV. Pynchon is considered the postmodern novelist par excellence, so it is no surprise that The Crying of Lot 49 subverts traditional narrative structure.

Pynchon's short novel tells the story of a California housewife, Mrs. Oedipa Maas, who is given the duty of being executor for the estate of an ex-lover, Pierce Inverarity, who has just died. The central plot of the novel, however, hinges on whether Oedipa has inadvertently discovered the existence of a vast conspiracy called "The Trystero" -- basically a secret underground post-office that exists in defiance of the established government. Pynchon is very careful about establishing two separate possibilities for the reader: one is that the Trystero is real, and Oedipa has discovered a conspiracy, and the other possibility is that Oedipa is paranoid, and the entire idea is a figment of her imagination. As she herself says late in the novel, "Shall I project a world?" It is impossible for the reader to tell if this is what she is doing or not.

It is important to note that the book does not exactly subvert Freytag's Triangle as the reader goes along-in fact, it is structured rather conventionally like a California noir detective story, with the housewife uncovering clues and interviewing a series of eccentrics. The subversion comes at the end. Pynchon structures the book so that the ultimate revelation -- the proof of whether the conspiracy is read, or Oedipa is just paranoid -- will come in the last chapter, at an auction of rare stamps. (This is the "Lot 49" of the title, and the "crying" is the technical term for an auctioneer calling for bids on the lot.) But the book ends at the exact moment when the auctioneer is about to start -- and he is described as raising his arms like a priest for some strange religion, making it clear that the revelation of the plot has taken on a numinous significance. The reader is therefore placed in exactly the same position as the protagonist, with either of the two possibilities (a real conspiracy, or an paranoid fantasy) active in the mind as the book closes. So the ideas of "closure, resolution, and explanation" that are implied by Freytag's Triangle turn out to be the subject of this short novel -- the entire book is structured to dangle the possibility of finding such resolution before the reader (and the protagonist) and then frustrate this expectation.


I'd like to focus my discussion on "Lost in the Funhouse" on the most utterly unconventional of the first five stories-if it can even be called a story. This is Barth's "Frame-Tale," which is a sort of microfiction which outlines Barth's theme of cyclical repetition in the most abstract possible way. The complete text of "Frame-Tale" is as follows: "ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A STORY THAT BEGAN / FRAME-TALE / Cut on dotted line. / Twist end once and fasten / AB to ab, CD to cd."

It is worth performing a close analysis on this text. The "body" of the story (after the two titles given in all capital letters) is not actually a story: it is a set of instructions. These instructions -- as most people who have ever taken middle-school geometry should recognize -- describe how to build the paradoxical structure known as the Mobius Strip. In other words, take a long rectangular slip of paper, and twist the paper once, then fasten the ends together. If the ends are fastened together without the twist, you would get a standard wrist-band (like a yellow Lance Armstrong bracelet) that has two sides. But the peculiar property of the Mobius Strip is that it only has one side. If you were able to crawl along the Mobius Strip like an ant, you would start at one point and eventually walk in a straight line until you reached the same point again -- it functions as a perfect loop.

So what is the relation of these instructions to the all-caps chapter headings that precede it. Obviously the first part is the most obvious form of narrative beginning -- "ONCE UPON A TIME" -- that immediately leaps into self-referentiality. Normally we are told that once upon a time there was a boy named Jack who lived with his mother and a cow, or once upon a time there was a girl named Cinderella who lived with her wicked stepmother, and the story follows from there. We are not normally told "ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A STORY THAT BEGAN"-because, of course, stories themselves begin with "once upon a time." In other words, this first sentence invites readers to turn it into a kind of Mobius Strip construction, where we continue looping the text in our minds: "once upon a time there was a story that began 'once upon a time, there was a story that began...'..." And so on.

Similarly the actual title of the story, "FRAME-TALE," is also self-referential. It is a technical term about the structure of storytelling. For example, book like Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" has a frame-tale and a main narrative: the frame-tale takes place on a boat on the Thames, where Marlow is telling a story about a journey he took up a river in Africa, to find a man named Kurtz. The main narrative -- i.e., the plot of "Heart of Darkness" -- is the actual story Marlow tells, but the frame-tale lends structure to the main narrative. (Marlow is interrupted at least once by his listeners in London.) This structure is not uncommon in many classic narratives: "Frankenstein" or "The Turn of the Screw" also feature frame-tales. However, a frame-tale is usually used to lend structure and verisimilitude to a story. The three examples I have listed of literary classics with frame-tales all use the frame-tale to make a shocking or supernatural story sound plausible, and to explain how the story came to be told in the first place. Barth's "Frame-Tale" is not serving the function of any of these frame-tales at all: it tells the reader how to build a Mobius Strip. But this means that the "Frame-Tale" here is being used only for structure-we are being told that the narratives we will encounter are in some way circular, that they may only be "one-dimensional," that they may end where they began, or loop back upon themselves.

As we begin to read the stories that follow "Frame-Tale" we realize that, in some sense, these are not going to be conventional narratives. The story that immediately follows, "Night Sea Journey," looks like a parody of Melville or Conrad, but is in reality an extended allegory about the voyage of a sperm-cell trying to fertilize an egg (carrying its "Heritage" or genetic material). But this only becomes evident over the course of reading "Night Sea Journey" and to a certain extent, the Mobius Strip instructions of "Frame-Tale" are useful: by the end of "Night Sea Journey" we realize that it's not a seafaring tale but an allegory, which basically requires the reader to start over again at the beginning and re-read the story, knowing what it is about. In some sense, the cyclical nature of the Mobius Strip is being applied by Barth to the process of re-reading: after we gradually figure out what "Night Sea Journey" is describing, then we want to return to the beginning of the story and re-read it, to confirm this knowledge.


Why is it new?

*New technology has changed meaning of literacy and types of text

*Texts include not only print forms of communication but also nonprint forms that are digital, aural, or visual in nature." (p. 7)

Why it literacy? | Why is it important?

"Literacy has come to represent | *Old paradigm assumed a synthesis of language, thinking, | teaching literacy meant and contextual practices through competency with (e.g.)

which people make and construct textbooks meaning." (p. 7) *Learning how to use Ebay

or YouTube is a form of literacy



*Hypertext requires a kind of literacy that is non-linear

*This is not possible in a paper-based literacy (p.38)


Socialized | Interactive

*Website literacy is a *Internet-based sources multimodal activity (p.37) respond to critical inquiry

*Context of website within by being interactive larger environment helps *Skills: COMMUNICATE

to establish value




Prior factors:

*Student's pre-existing knowledge and interest in the subject

*Reason student is engaged in learning about the subject /

Content factors: | Literacy factors:

*Text writers make *decoding assumptions…

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"Barth Lity Hello My Name Is Fadi" (2014, September 22) Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

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