In 1967, John Barth wrote an essay which characterized modern literature in a state of exhaustion ,a “used-up” form. The ultimate question then was: What do we do with literature? Barth’s answer suggested that we present narrators that are aware of themselves, as well as the exhaustion of their medium. Also, that we reorient and give new meaning to stories that have already been told, such as the greek myths the second half of the novel focuses on. Meta-fiction is defined as fiction that includes commentary on it’s own construction and narrative process, as well as it’s relation to the reader. Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse addresses the complications of post-modernity and the text. He rejects the idea of a knowable, Cartesian self that can authoritatively construct a unified, coherent narrative because the protagonist is no longer capable of defining him/herself. Meta-fiction addresses this lack of center not only within the self, but within language as well, and grapples with the effects it has on the future of the reader, the role of medium and author, and the intersections between them. Barth redefines this relationship as one of inherent, but not defined, meaning by entering into self-reflexivity and consciousness as the novel progresses. Barth furthers the deconstructive project by asserting LF’s fictionality to engage the reader in play, rather than a passive consumption of authorial intent. (Worthington)
As Lost in the Funhouse is constitutive of many stories that are about the inability of traditional narrative meeting contemporary needs, “the old analogy between Author and God…can no longer be employed” (LF 125). The novel begs the question of what literature can do if the medium is “moribund..if not already dead.” (LF...
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