BARTH LOST IN THE FUNHOUSE PDF

Anyone that has taken a 20th-century American lit course has probably had to read something by Barth, and it was most likely the title story in this collection. Barth is known for his excessive meta-fictional devices and influence on writers, mentioned previously, like Pynchon, Wallace, and probably any serious postmodernist. The devices serve a purpose and are usually humorous. Unlike some postmodernists that came after him, Barth is very much concerned with art expressing a human experience mostly love.

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The stories within this collection are typically approached as postmodern due to their self-reflexivity, their self-awareness, and their use of self-reference. Plot-wise, not much occurs within this narrative. In a nutshell, a teenage boy named Ambrose travels with his family to Ocean City, Maryland, where they spend most of their time sunbathing at the beach, going on amusement park rides, and entertaining themselves with games at the Ocean City boardwalk. Ambrose is nervous because he really likes this girl named Magda, and wants to develop the courage to confess his love for her.

This plot, however, constitutes a really small part of the narrative. Given the fact that this text is a meta-fiction, the elements within the story should be approached not only by how they develop the plot, but also by their commentary as pertaining to the acts of writing and reading fiction. In an attempt to highlight the complexity and richness of this story, let me turn my attention to unpacking the following passage:.

On the other hand he may be scarcely past the start, with everything yet to get through, an intolerable idea. Although plot-wise there is an actual or concrete funhouse, the term is also being invoked as a symbol for narrative, fiction, or perhaps even the mind of the protagonist.

In the passage above, the narrator uses quotation marks to bring up the tired and overwrought nature of the coming-of-age genre.

Not only can this be approached as an attempt to destabilize stereotypes in terms of what adolescents are or are not capable of deliberating, but it also pushes the reader to question the foundations that generate these so-called truisms and verisimilitudes.

Is it possible for a teen to conceive of sophisticated ideas? Is there a specific age that a person must reach before being able to formulate complex ideas? It can be said that the narrator considers the coming-of-age genre to be important or useful given its universality, but at the same time, the text makes overt critiques on the use of conventions and patterns to portray universal themes. Growth, development, and linearity both from a textual and non-textual perspective are thus prominent themes that are scrutinized within the depths of the funhouse.

Figure 1. The narrator of the story makes a critique of patterns by illustrating the conventions that narratives usually appropriate in order to assure that they are effective. The text painstakingly depicts the usual structures and conventions that narratives employ to deliver a story see Figure 1. With this in mind, it can be argued that the narrator is not necessarily refuting the importance of fiction with sensitive adolescents, but rather, he is contesting the usefulness of a linear narrative to do justice to the multifaceted, complicated, and fragmentary nature of the issues that are faced during the coming-of-age process.

I thought this notion was particularly apparent as Ambrose ventures through the maze of mirrors in the funhouse. As Ambrose sees multiple selves being reflected as he tunnels through those mirrored paths, he realizes the futility of trying to approach the self as a single, atomized unit:.

Stepping from the treacherous passage at last into the mirror-maze, he saw once again, more clearly than ever, how readily he deceived himself into supposing he was a person. He even foresaw, wincing at his dreadful self-knowledge, that he would repeat the deception, at ever-rarer intervals, all his wretched life, so fearful were the alternatives.

The passage above is one of the most overt critiques on linearity, development, and the conventions that are usually invoked when writing developmental narratives. It attacks the notion of teleology and fulfillment, going as far as to argue that development is not always achieved by following points A to D.

Furthermore, this passage refutes the notion of self-fulfillment by highlighting the cyclic nature and the folly of trying to pin down a clear and clean definition of the self. The self is always more fragmented and unreachable than narratives of development usually convey, and the self is always found in a state of constant change and growth. Barth, John. Lost in the Funhouse. New York: Bantam Books, Thank you so much for sharing! You are commenting using your WordPress.

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Lost in the Funhouse

The stories within this collection are typically approached as postmodern due to their self-reflexivity, their self-awareness, and their use of self-reference. Plot-wise, not much occurs within this narrative. In a nutshell, a teenage boy named Ambrose travels with his family to Ocean City, Maryland, where they spend most of their time sunbathing at the beach, going on amusement park rides, and entertaining themselves with games at the Ocean City boardwalk. Ambrose is nervous because he really likes this girl named Magda, and wants to develop the courage to confess his love for her.

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John Barth’s “Lost in the Funhouse”: A Postmodern Critique of the Developmental Narrative

The main protagonist is 13 year old Ambrose who gets lost in the funhouse — any discerning reader would not have to work hard to see how a story of a pubescent teenage boy in the company of an uninterested teenage girl could find himself, both literally and metaphorically, lost in the funhouse. However, considered alongside the theories I have discussed on this website, another layer of interpretative reading materialises that, I believe, secures Barths postmodern presence within a much wider contextual standing. But he has. Then he wishes he were dead.

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Lost in the Funhouse is a short story collection by American author John Barth. The postmodern stories are extremely self-conscious and self-reflexive and are considered to exemplify metafiction. The book appeared the year after the publication of Barth's essay The Literature of Exhaustion , in which Barth said that the traditional modes of realistic fiction had been used up, but that this exhaustion itself could be used to inspire a new generation of writers, citing Nabokov , Beckett , and especially Borges as exemplars of this new approach. Lost in the Funhouse took these ideas to an extreme, for which it was both praised and condemned by critics. Each story can be considered complete in itself, and in fact several of them were published separately before being collected. Barth insists, however, on the serial nature of the stories, and that a unity can be found in them as collected.

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