Exhaustion" demonstrates an interest in the subject of how different media might affect the meaning of art. Barth's general remarks at the opening of "The Literature of Exhaustion" indicate a sort of ambivalence about what he terms "intermedia' arts" (65). He seems to approve of "their tendency to eliminate…the most traditional notion of the artist…one endowed with uncommon talent, who has moreover developed and disciplined that endowment into virtuosity" (65). Yet in terms of aesthetic theory this is not altogether different from a normative 19th century or modernist conception of the artist's role: one thinks of such famous aesthetic pronouncements as Flaubert declaring that the artist must be like God, "everywhere present and nowhere visible," or Wilde's dictum that "to reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim," or James Joyce's God-like artist "invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." It could be argued that this main tendency from Flaubert to Wilde to Joyce represents, essentially, the Modernist tendency -- yet Barth is traditionally held up as an echt Post-Modernist. If Barth's essay reacts against the tendency of "intermedia arts" to undermine the conception of the actual artist, he is equally reacting against a tendency in Modernism to efface the artist's presence. In some sense, Barth's Post-Modernism resides in the willingness (contra Flaubert) to make the artist's role not only present but actually visible. This is the essence of Worthington's analysis of Lost in the Funhouse, for example, which centers on the notion that Barth is arguing for "the necessity of a coherent, if constructed, subjectivity at the heart of the narrative" (Worthington 133). For Worthington, Barth's fiction hinges upon the self-consciousness of this narrator figure, as being necessary to how we construct meaning and find coherence within a narrative itself. Likewise Carey notes the relevance of the traditional Modernist image from Joyce and Flaubert, imagining the author as God, to part of the interpretive game in the Lost in the Funhouse section entitled "Life Story": among the story's many characters indicated only by an algebraic letter, "conspicuously Barth does not use the letter A, but the narrator provides some evidence for identifying God as the primary author" (Carey 121). Similarly, Barth suggests that "the intermedia arts…tend to be intermediary…between the traditional realms of aesthetics on the one hand and artistic creation on the other…Whether or not they themselves produce memorable and lasting works of contemporary art, they may very possibly suggest something usable in the making or understanding of such works" (66). The use of different media seems, in Barth's imagination, to be an interest in extending the possibilities of understanding art, even if the notion of artistic success is hardly guaranteed in his view. This raises the question, though, of Barth's actual "intermedia" experiments in Lost in the Funhouse. In the book's slightly notorious "Author's Note," for example, Barth claims that the story entitled "Glossolalia" "will make no sense unless heard in live or recorded voices, male and female, or read as if so heard." This is a somewhat joking preface, because of course the story contains an actual section that (like the "speaking in tongues" nonsense-language of actual American Pentecostal glossolalia) makes no sense on the linguistic level at all, whether heard out loud or not: "Ed' pelut', kondo nedode, imba imba." ("Glossolalia." ) The other sections are written in straightforward English, alluding to different mythologies both Classical (Cassandra at the fall of Troy) and Judeo-Christian (Solomon and the Queen of Sheba). But why does Barth insist that the meaning lies in the medium of experiencing the story? The hint is given at the end of the book, in Barth's "Seven Additional Author's Notes," where he indicates what might very well escape the reader if the story is only read with the eyes and not experienced with the ears: there is an auditory element built into "Glossolalia." Barth reveals at the end that each of the story's six paragraphs is "metrically identical, each corresponding to what in fact may be the only verbal sound-pattern identifiable to anyone who attended American public schools prior to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Murray v. Baltimore School Board in 1963. The insufferability of the fiction, once this correspondence is recognized, makes its double point: that language may be a compound code, and that the discovery of an enormous complexity beneath a simple surface may well be more dismaying than delightful" ("Seven Additional Author's Notes"). This is still rather coy, and requires decoding. But what Barth here means is that before Madalyn Murray O'Hair's lawsuit against Baltimore -- where the Supreme Court found prayer in schools to be unconstitutional -- every reader could be counted upon to identify the "verbal sound-pattern" of the Lord's Prayer. "Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name" follows the same "metrically identical…sound-pattern" as "Ed' pelut', kondo nedode, imba imba" or "Sweet Sheba, beloved highness, Solomon craves your throne!" In other words, the "double point" of the story is only accessible if the reader hears the story out loud, with an emphasis on the rhythm, and also recognizes that rhythm as being the same as a common Christian prayer. But of course what this does indicate is an underlying sense of religious ritual to the purpose of art. A Christian religious service uses the Lord's Prayer for the precise purpose of reading it out loud -- and Barth requires "Glossolalia" to be read out loud for the precise purpose of having the meaning of the story be experienced in auditory fashion by an audience that is presupposed to have similar experience of the Lord's Prayer. In other words, the old Modernist conception of the artist as God is here being revised slightly -- Barth the Post-Modernist does not expect us to believe in God, but does expect us to be familiar with the ritualized behaviors (or even just ritualized sounds) that adhere to the notion of God. As a result, the "intermedia" experience of "Glossolalia" is necessary to its actual meaning -- like the title of the story itself, it is an actual sound experience (not a silent reading experience) that is intended to convey some kind of religious meaning through what might otherwise be nonsense. The very notion of meaning in Barth is something that is being negotiated between writer and reader, and the different media chosen indicate a different way of getting reader to play the game of helping to construct a coherent meaning to the artistic experience.
LITY Module 2 Discussion Board
I know that multiple choice is the most common method of standardized testing, and used on the SAT and ACT, but I wonder if it is the best method of assessment for a teacher who really wants to know how his or her students are faring. I say this because it's all too easy to guess, or even fill in the bubbles at random, on a multiple choice test -- and while this may let us know which students are falling far behind, it doesn't really give a sense of how badly they are falling behind. A fill in the blank response would either show that a student has retained some vague concept of relevant information, or is just writing down random words to complete the test. I am also basing my skepticism about multiple choice on Vacca, Vacca and Mraz's stated preference for portfolio assessment, which admittedly entails a lot more work for the instructor. But apart from one-on-one conversation, I don't think there is a simple way outside of portfolio assessment to get a detailed sense of what students are learning and failing to learn. I wonder if it might not be a good policy to have early-career teachers stick to the admittedly labor-intensive method of portfolio assessment in order to get as much information about their own teaching methods and styles -- and then, after several years and a good sense of what students find easy or hard to learn, the instructor might be able to rely on the quicker methods like multiple choice, after the instructor has a sense of his or her own strengths in the classroom. Vacca, R.T., & Vacca J.A.L., & Mraz, M. (2014). Content area reading literacy and learning across the curriculum. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
I was impressed with your reference to "multiple guess" testing because I have a skepticism about how valid that kind of standardized approach can be in terms of assessing actual student performance. But do you think portfolio assessment on its own can actually end up giving an actual measure of how much students are learning? I certainly agree with your statement that portfolio assessment can more easily identify the "special needs and talents" of students, but at the same time it can be extremely difficult to have to tailor lesson plans to a wide variety of learning idiosyncrasies. I wonder if, in practice, portfolio assessment ends up benefitting only the best students, while identifying…