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The End of the Road: The Death of Individualism

Abstract

Though John Barth won the National Book Award for his novel, Giles Goat Boy, his second novel, The End of the Road, proves a more interesting case study for our purposes, namely, to explore the relationship between philosophy and literature. This is so for at least three reasons. First, by the author's own admission, the novel is intended as a refutation of ethical subjectivism, particularly as expoused by Jean Paul Sartre. Secondly, in the novel, Barth, like Virginia Woolf in To the Lighthouse, places reason and imagination in contention, suggesting that either faculty in isolation is inadequate in dealing with human experience. Both Barth and Woolf are reflecting and probably criticizing the assumption of a number of contemporary writers and critics, namely, that rational discourse is inadequate to the task of ordering the chaotic, fragmentary world and giving meaning to life and only the poet (novelist) employing his imagination can do this.

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1 Two Cheers for Democracy (New York: Harcourt, Brace World; Harvest Books, 1951), 9192.

2 Ohmann Richard, ‘Teaching and Studying Literature at the End of Ideology’, Kampf Louis and Lauter Paul, The Politics of Literature: Dissenting Essays on the Teaching of English (New York: Vintage, 1972), 139140.

3 Trilling Lionel, ‘Two Environments’, in Beyond Culture: Essays on Literature and Learning (New York: Viking Press; Compass Books, 1968), 209233.

4 See Barth John, ‘The Literature of Exhaustion’, The Atlantic 220 (1967), 33.

5 Bluestone Gregory, ‘John Walh and John Barth: The Angry and the Accurate’, The Massachusetts Review I (Fall 1959-Summer 1960), 586.

6 Barth John, The End of the Road (New York: Doubleday Company Inc.; Bantam Books, 1967 and subsequent), 46.

7 Ibid., 49.

8 Ibid., 33.

9 Ibid., 20.

10 Ibid., 47.

11 Ibid., 45.

12 Ibid., 48.

13 Ibid., 3.

14 Ibid., 5.

15 Ibid., 1.

16 Ibid., 44.

17 Ibid., 84.

18 Ibid., 83.

19 Ibid., 88.

20 Ibid., 90.

21 Ibid., 90.

22 Ibid., 89.

23 Ibid., 81–82.

24 Ibid., 5.

25 Ibid., 85.

26 Ibid., 30.

27 Ibid., 68.

28 Ibid., 70.

29 Ibid., 101.

30 Ibid., 103.

31 Ibid., 106.

32 Ibid., 147.

33 Ibid., 148.

34 Ibid., 154.

35 Ibid., 155.

36 Ibid., 196.

37 Ibid., 197.

38 Ibid., 197.

39 Sartre Jean Paul, The Transcendence of Ego, trans. Williams Forest and Kilpatrick Robert (New York: Farrar, Straus & Girous-Noonday, 1957), 99100.

40 The End of the Road, 71.

41 Barth John, The Sot-Weed Factor.

42 Quoted by Farwell Harold in John Barth's Tenuous Affirmation: ‘The Absurd, Unending Possibility of Love’, The Georgia Review, xxviii (1979) p. 303.

43 The End of the Road, 89.

44 Ibid., 128.

45 Ibid., 141–142.

46 Ibid., 119.

47 Ibid., 136–135.

48 Sartre Jean Paul, Being and Nothingness, 350.

49 Quoted in Kolenda Konstantin, Philosophy's Journey.

50 Warnock Mary, Existentialist Ethics, 38.

52 Lukas George, ‘The Ideology of Modernism’, in Perry John Oliver, Backgrounds to Modern Literature (San Francisco: Chandler, 1968), 248.

53 Merleau-Ponty Maurice, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Smith C. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966), 355.

55 Royce Josiah, The World and The Individual (New York: Second Series, Dover Publications, 1959), 261262, italics are Royce's.

56 Merleau-Ponty, op. cit., 355.

57 Ibid., 354.

58 Royce Josiah, The Problem of Christianity, I (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1981), 152.

59 Royce Josiah, The World and the Individual, 282283.

60 Ibid., 171–172, italics are Royce's.

61 Royce, The Problem of Christianity, I, 356357.

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Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements
  • ISSN: 1358-2461
  • EISSN: 1755-3555
  • URL: /core/journals/royal-institute-of-philosophy-supplements
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