Narrative As Technology

Artifice Reflecting on Itself

Assignment 1

What various metaphors does Borges investigate for a person's life through time in "The Garden of the Forking Paths"? Does the dominant metaphor of the "forking paths" affect what the narrator decides to do? According to Borges's story, can that metaphor of life journey as "forking paths" be illustrated in a novel? If not, why not? If so, how?


Assignment 2

This assignment presumes that you have seen or read The Wizard of Oz, or even that you know its basic story. If that is not true, please email your instructor.

Think about the "yellow brick road" as a metaphor for "life" to the twenty-first-century "modern" American (we usually call ourselves "postmodern"). What is the narrative structure of the Wizard of Oz? Outline it, using either pictures or words. Now think about it: on Oprah, or in biographies or memoirs that you have read, do the stories of people's lives -- especially people who overcome problems -- take the shape of the Wizard of Oz narrative? In other words, could you fit a lot of modern biographies into the outline of The Wizard of Oz? Does The Wizard of Oz tell us what our life stories should be like, if we are as "good" as Dorothy?

Now analyze The Wizard of Oz in another way. Think about when the movie (or, for most of us, the television movie) switches from black-and-white to color. Think about going to the land of Oz, "somewhere over the rainbow," as a metaphor for going to the movies or turning on the television. Is going to the land of Oz like going to the movies or watching TV, and do we come back "home" again to Kansas, to our ordinary lives? What is this movie saying, in that case, about the effects that television / movies do or should have on our lives? What is it telling us about how to be "good" viewers, just as Dorothy is a "good" girl?


Assignment 3

The excerpts from Barthes and Ryan's essay on narratology try to isolate the various components of stories, using some new terminology. Take two or three of the terms you learn in either place and give an example of them from a well-known story (a fairy tale, a myth, the Bible, a classic work of literature).

Early in her introduction, Ryan asks, "What kinds of stories can be told in different medial environments?" Having seen the movie Blade Runner and having read the book on which it is based, Philip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, do you think stories change when you move them from one medium (the novel, for instance) to another (cinema)? What would Ryan say in response to that question?