N. American Postmodern Fiction & Film, Spring 2000  John BarthPostmodern Theories & Texts, Fall, 1998
Lost in the Funhouse

The novel as a whole The early narrators tend to be young, the later ones old. The early fictional forms tend to be traditional, like an autobiography and a letter; the later ones tend to be innovative, like the story "Title," which in part deals with the death of the short story genre. The early times and settings tend to be contemporary and realistic; the later ones tend to be mythic and fantastic. And these shifts are related: the more the characters mature, the more they leave off the porblems of living in favor of the problems of writing, and leave off the present real world in favor of an imaginary, timeless, literary one. In addition, the narrators tend to become more self-conscious as they go along, feeling ever more self-conscious as they go along, feeling ever more impotent and frustrated, losing body and mass and turning into the sound of their words.

(Morrell 94)

"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.
  • Different interpretation of the journey

    1. "my own invention?" p. 3; p. 9; out of blind habit
    2. for Love p. 4; for self-interest p. 5; ambition for race at a younger age p. 8
    3. the end of the journey: extinction? -- nihilism
    4. thousands of seas and Makers, Makers in their own sea, pluralism pp. 7-8

  • Who is the "Father"?  pp. 6 -7
  • Who is "She"? p. 9-10, mystic unity, a creator; p. 11
"Ambrose his Mark"
  • the issue of name
  • the family eccentricity
  • Ambrose as a marked man
"Lost in the Funhouse"
  • The structure of the story: 
    • part I: 1st paragraph (present tense)  
    • part II: chronological 
    • part III: pp. 76 Ambrose and the narrator lost in the Funhouse
    • part IV: pp. 88- entrance
    • part V: pp. 90 after exposition; summary of the story and possible endings
  • Ambrose's personality: shy, artistic p. 72, p. 74-75; 
    • as an artist: 80-81l 84; 85
  • Ambrose vs. the rest of the family
  • narrative intrusions: about italics, names, description, metaphoric description, plot, 
  • the narrator's frustration: 
  • the historical relevance
  • possible endings and what they mean
story within story
"M" seven tales within tales each progressed to the point where the climax of one triggered the climax of another and so on to the number of seven,...

the narrator, Menelaus, tells the reader how one night he told the sons of Nestor and Odysseus he told Proteus how he told the daughter of Proteus how he rehearsed to Helen how he destroyed their love.

(Morrell 94)
"Title" "The demise of the novel and short story needn't be the end of narrative art...The final possibility is to turn ultimacy, exhaustion, paralyzing self-consciousness and the adjective weight of accumulated history...To turn ultimacy against itself to make something new and valid, the essence whereof would be the impossibility of making something new." "Oh God comma I abhor self-consciousness."
(Morrell 94)