English 248-002: Literature and Contemporary Life
Response 10: Barth and Goldsmith
DUE: December 3, 2013
For the 10th and final response of the class, please write about John Barth, Kenneth Goldsmith, or the two authors together. Please be sure to focus on something specific and cite some passages or parts of passages in your analysis. Remember, you should have a point or a key question that you are pursuing, and try to make that clear early in your post. Here are a few prompts if you're having trouble getting started:
- In his essay, Barth sets up a contrast between thinking/talking and making/doing. Summarize this opposition and explain how he applies it to Borges's short story "The Library of Babel." What other examples, either from the past or from our current culture, can you find to add to "The Library of Babel"? Movies, artworks, internet artifacts, or other works of literature? What other examples can you find that "attempt to represent not life directly but a representation of life" (CR 197)? Consider, for instance, the difference between The Hunger Games movie and The Hunger Games Wiki.
- One person's trash is another person's treasure. How does this common axiom apply to the basic debate between Barth and Goldsmith? What is trash and what is treasure for Barth? What is trash and what is treasure for Goldsmith? Or, does this binary break down for Goldsmith?
- In the introduction to his book Uncreative Writing, Goldsmith writes: "Literary works might function the same way that memes do today on the Web, spreading like wildfire for a short period, often unsigned and unauthored, only to be supplanted by the next ripple" (CR 205). How does this meeting of literature and digital culture force a redefinition of either category, in Goldsmith's view? What spoken and/or unspoken assumptions underlie his argument?
- Following on the previous prompt, what are the implications of a potential embrace of literary uncreativity and the dismissal of authors "endowed with uncommon talent [and] virtuosity," as Barth writes (CR 193)? What possible futures does Goldsmith neglect to consider, if "instead of creation, we honor, cherish, and embrace manipulation and repurposing" (216)? In other words, are you on board with Goldsmith?