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Once Upon a Time: A Floating Opera: John Barth's Death-Defying Art of Writing

Mahsa Hashemi, Farideh Pourgiv


This study seeks to demonstrate the trend and development of Barth’s concept of writing and authorial presence, and the emphasis that Barth puts on the very act of narration/writing, as a means of deferring death and entitling writing as the art that defeats death. As the ultimate storyteller of the postmodern dispensation, John Barth has achieved prominence in his treatment of the contemporary man’s eternal engagement with their intuition of a hovering ultimacy and death, and the strategies of survival that his characters adopt in order to defy the diminishing of the self. He creates characters who are either literally writers or by the very nature of their existence are expected to write the story of their lives. These characters need to narrate themselves in order to avoid their disappearance into nothingness. Those who succeed in narrating themselves manage to achieve, not immortality, but existence, even if it is on the pages of books; those who fail to do so would eventually fall off the edges of the narrative into the void surrounding the fictional level of reality. The entire world, in Barth’s rendering, is reduced to an act of narration. Narrative functions as a means of survival.


author, metafiction, narration

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2012.01918