Saturday, March 26, 2011

Open Thread for House of Leaves (to page 96)

Option 2-Borges Blog

Perla Sasson-Henry introduces two theories in his portion of the Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature that reflect very well what our class has spoken about in Borges stories these past weeks. The Bifurcation Theory explains the idea that there are a “number of possibilities and solutions which emerge” (Henry 13) in every choice a person makes. We can see this theory run through many of Borges’ works, specifically in the Garden of Forking Paths. The second theory mentioned, is the Chaos Theory, which explains the “discovery that hidden within the unpredictability of chaotic systems are deep structures of order.” (Henry 12)

Bifurcation Theory occurs in the Garden of Forking Paths where there is talk of how “In all fictions, each time a man meets diverse alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others.” (Borges 125) There could be many futures for these men including death or life or delivering themselves to their captain. This theory is shown in many of Borges fictions, not only The Garden of Forking Paths, but it is also in The Lottery in Babylon.

We spoke in class of Borges’ love for simultaneity and parallel universes. We also spoke of how in The Garden of Forking Paths, the paths are killed after a man chooses one versus in The Lottery in Babylon, you could be anyone and do anything, it was up to chance, but there is still bifurcation in that you choose whether or not you want to play and when to play.

The Chaos Theory explaining that “what to the naked eye resembles noise, disruption, or disorganization is in fact the result of some deeply organized structure” (Henry 12), can be shown through The Library of Babel. This library may seem chaotic, filled with so many people and so an infinite number of books, but “the arrangement of the gallery is always the same: Twenty bookshelves, five to each side, line four of the hexagon’s six sides…” (Borges 112) The chaos of this library, really just is a very organized display of books and walls in a hexagonal figure.

We spoke of chaos when discussing The Lottery in Babylon and how Borges changes the way the world works and in his fictional pieces, he instead makes his characters living in an ordered world where the people only introduce the chaos. This is what is happening in both The Lottery in Babylon and The Library of Babel. This switch of how the world works is confusing and hard to grasp because the world is so chaotic, one may not be able to imagine a world or a library or a lottery that has initial chaos that is “ubiquitous, stable, structured”. (Henry 12)

The bifurcation theory and the chaos theory are both very apparent in the fictional works of Borges. These two theories are part of the reason why Borges may be difficult to read at times because they introduce new concepts into how the world works, concepts we may have never thought of before. Henry explains these theories in an understandable way in which heavily related the works of Borges to the two theories. Bifurcation and chaos may be two of the most prominent theories within the fictional works of Borges.

Works Cited:

1) Perla Sassón-Henry. Borges' "The Library of Babel" and Moulthrop's Cybertext "Reagan Library" Revisited
Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature
Vol. 60, No. 2 (2006), pp. 11-22
Published by: Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association
Article Stable URL:

2) Borges, Jorge Luis, and Andrew Hurley. Collected Fictions. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1998. Print.

option 2

Since we read Jorge’s Borges collection of works, I was very interested in influences of Borges work, especially to other writers. His influential works clearly impacted many writers, Octavio Paz being one of them. In Octavio Paz’s “ In Time’s labyrinth”, he first introduced Borges by saying that he began to read Borges in his youth and he said, “he could not stop reading it and conversing silently with its author” (Paz 30). Octavio once imagined that Borges himself was a fictional being (Paz30), which expresses Octavio’s amazement and awe toward Borges and his work.
Although Borges is a famous, well-renowned writer of his period, he also was an outsider as much as he was a respected insider. In the article, Paz said that he was surprised by Borges’ dispiritedness about the situation in his country and he had become a celebrity but at the same time, he is surrounded by enemies and by treacherous envy of people (Paz 31). Because his works were written during the World War II, there was a lot of tension and pressure among countries, and his works that made a commentary about the war or the state of the world at that time, had a wave of impact on people in general. As a result, Borges had a group of admirers but also pressured severely by anti- Borges that strongly refuted Borges’ ideas. This reminds me of Borges’ “Garden of Forking Path”. In the story, all the characters Yu Tsun, Richard Madden and Stephen Albert, were all peculiar outsiders of their cultures. Maybe Borges was trying to reflect a part of him through those characters, because he, too, was an outsider.
Although he was an outsider, he did not care about what others thought of him. Borges expressed his views clearly though his writing. Especially, his ideas about unreality were what were fascinating the most. Octavio vehemently praised Borges’ writing and said, “His was a mind of uncommon clarity, united with the fantasy of a poet attracted by the ‘other side’ of reality… The great achievement of Borges was to say the most with the least” (Paz 32). When I read this line of the article, I could not agree more. Borges fictions are all arranged as short stories. However, the content and ideas that he gathers in stories are extreme, fascinating and complex. I sometimes wonder how he could put in all the ideas in one story. For Example, “Circular Ruin” is a story of a sorcerer dreaming of a boy and creating a boy, but inside of other man’s dream. It is a very simple and concise fiction in a way. However, when we look deeper into the novel, the ideas of Gnosticism, infinity, and how all these topics are incorporated in just two pages is just compelling.
Throughout the essay, Octavio describes Borges as an inventor with extreme ideas numerous times. Octavio also argues that Borges loved the idea of extreme, but always presented it with a limited and clear form, with a beginning and an end (Paz 34). I especially love when Octavio wrote that “ He [Borges] thought that eternities and infinities could fit on a page” (Paz). Topics like infinity, eternity, death, life, are so larger than life and so broad that even other writers takes pages after pages to write about these things. However, Borges examines these topics with limit and impact.
Paz, Octavio. “In Time’s Labyrinth”. New Republic 3 November 1983. Vol. 195 Issue 18, p30-34, 5p, 1 Black and White Photograph. Points of View Reference Center. 25 March 2011.

Prompt 1, Library of Babel

A reprint of Jorge Luis Borges’s The Library of Babylon appeared in the Pitt News last week, in memorandum of Borges. It, however, was misrepresented by the columnist and the surrounding pictures. Explaining Borges’ view of the infinite universe as metaphorically illustrated through a library, the article included a finite picture of a library space not unlike the hexagonal library as described by Borges.

The article appeared on the third page placed inside a box in the upper left hand corner, farthest away from the corner’s edge, the picture an insert halfway down mid-text, on the right hand side. I almost missed reading the article. They place articles unimportant articles there. The important ones get first page, some cut in half so at least half of the article reaches the first page. And pictures, lots of gory, flashy, or sexy pictures. Pictures of libraries don’t ever make it to the front page unless someone has died, or it’s on fire, or someone is having inappropriate intimate relations in this library. Borges was just explaining how the universe exists.

He explains the universe to be infinite, ever continuous and containing every distortion of every possible being, action, and thought possible, there are no two identical books and only the impossible are excluded (114). But this infinite space is compounded when the last page of his story appears and he admits that in time, the library circles back on itself and therefore, there would appear to be two and three and four copies of this book, the same book, if one were to travel through infinity multiple times. His entire illusion of infinite space has been shattered at this moment where infinite simply means forever a cyclical finite.

The Pitt News chose not to include this last page. Readers would not appreciate the contradiction within the literature. Little contradiction is ever included in any article, this probably being the first time that Borges was ever included at all. The other articles in the Pitt News were about budget cuts and how to stop them, what freshman should expect coming to Pitt, and articles about different clubs and activities on campus. Nothing too difficult, nothing too dense. It was entirely politically correct and could no way be misrepresented to inflict harm on any reader. It spoke little truth. That’s why Borges’ article was on the third page.

Borges tells the truth through his representations on other aspects of life. In other works he creates characters with lives that are like parables for readers to learn lessons. In The Library of Babel he explains through his library metaphor. In every case there is a second and sometimes third story that is beyond the literal one. If the truth, his version of the truth, were told outright, there is much room for argument, much room for initial denial. People cannot handle new ideas outright. Thus Borges hides this truth in layers of text that tell stories so readers are only vaguely aware of the new truth that they are ingesting.

This is also why the Pitt News chose not to include the last page of The Library of Babel, why in the freshman expectancy article the author chose to say one should not expect not to hear about greek life, where the author means ‘greek life is a big part of your freshman year at Pitt.” What is not included in the articles on budget cuts or about the campus activities as well?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Option 2

Jorge Borges has made time the subject in many of his books and stories. In class, some of the stories that were talked about insisted that time is infinite. Borges believed time is a mysterious component of the universes makeup, everything that happens in this world is done for a reason (O’Connell, 5). In the O’Connell “How to Handle Eternity: Infinity and the Theories of J.W. Dunne in the Fiction of Jorge Luis Borges and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policemen by Mark O’Connell compared the different authors’ works to one another. The three stories “The Garden of the Forking Paths”, “The Theologians”, and “The Circular Ruins” all show Borges different ideologies on time. Time for Borges was seen in different lights, he created different stories that in some form circled back to one another.

In the story “The Garden of the Forking Paths” by Borges, O’Connell found that like time, Borges also enjoyed mirroring his characters (O’Connell, 5). Mirroring describes Dr. Yu Tsun being an English Literature professor, yet is Chinese opposite of him Stephen Albert a Sinologist who’s English (O’Connell, 5). Tsun and Albert both contradict their entire beings with irony. It’s ironic because Tsun doesn’t understand his own history and having an Englishmen telling you about your own history is pathetic. In “Garden of the Forking Paths”, Borges portrayed the ideology that the world could be seen as a labyrinth. A maze with multiple choices our decisions didn’t matter because every different possibility was going to happen no matter what we chose (O’Connell, 5). O’Connell believed that Herbert Quain would’ve been proud to see labyrinth converted as infinite dimensions in time (O’Connell, 5). This version of time could’ve been seen as a component as universal time.

Stephen Albert in “The Garden of the Forking Paths” explained to Tsun about Ts’ui Pen’s book being infinite. The book was “cyclical, or circular, volume, a volume whose last page would be identical to the first, so that one might go on indefinitely (Borges, 125). In numerous stories by Borges such as “Circular Ruins”, “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”, “The Theologians”, “The Immortals”, and “The Gospel According to Saint Mark” continue to repeat themselves in a circular pattern (O’Connell, 6). Borges’ “The Theologians” consisted of a heretical sect, the Montoni that claimed “history was a circle, and that all things that exist have existed before and will exist again” (O’Connell, 6). Similar to Albert’s conversation in “The Garden of the Forking Paths”, the Montoni believed that history was a circle and everything will repeat itself. Borges loved to repeat himself in this story as many others, he does this by intertwining one story to another. Borges has a tendency to continue repetition yet always finds a way to change it but it still has the underlying topic in this case, it’s time.

In “The Circular Ruins” Borges chose his favorite topics infinite time and Gnostics. The man creating a man from only his imagination shows that with imagination there are endless possibilities. Similar to “The Garden of the Forking Paths” and “The Theologians” Borges, once again has a different story that circle around one another. In “The Garden of the Forking Paths”, the labyrinth symbolized infinite dimensions of time and in “The Circular Ruins”, you have a man using his imagination. Albert explains to Tsun, that life is like the labyrinth, multiple possibilities that are infinite like time. There are some people in the world that have no imagination, for a person to have an imagination they have a countless amount of possibilities they can dream about. Compared to the Montoni in “The Theologians”, they questioned their religious values and decided to change it and make it their own just the same could be said about the Gnostics in “The Circular Ruins”.

Time is infinite, no one knows how old the World is; there is only educated guesses. Borges defines time in different ways but I think some of his ideas are the work of a mad man. Even though he writes only to pass time, some of his ideologies I think he actually believes just as there are ideas that others believe are true.

Works Cited
Borges, Jorge Luis, and Andrew Hurley. Collected Fictions. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1998. Print.

O'Connell, Mark. "How to Handle Eternity: Infinity and the Theories of J.W. Dunne in the Fiction of Jorge Luis Borges and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policemen." Irish Studies Review May 2009 17.2 (2009): 223-37. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 23 May 2011. .

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Borges prompt 1

*I think it’s important to preface my story with a statement of my intent in writing it. In class the other week we were discussing the idea of order and disorder in Borges work. Borges insinuates that the universe is largely random and unorganized. I disagree with this and I think his own writings prove my point. It’s a bit cerebral to think about but in the story of The Library of Babel Borges creates a world of seeming disorder in which books, likewise, fill shelves in no discernable order many of which are filled with what looks like gibberish. In the world that Borges creates, however, it is entirely possible for a book to exist that reveals a pattern in this disorder. Even simpler yet, there may be a book that reveals the locations of the broadest categories: mathematics, sciences, history, etc. These book locations could then lead to even more specific categories on the subjects until every subject is completely documented. Even simpler this “master catalogue” could have directions to a book which gives the “answer” to the universe in such basic terms that any layman could understand it. The point is, when Borges constructs a universe that is infinite there are infinite possibilities.
I don’t think that the collection of books is completely random however. True if one were to set, say, a computer program so that it arranged letters randomly for an infinite amount of time everything possibly conceivable would be written down, eventually. This includes every novel, every history, and even the structure of the universe itself. Be that as it may, the odds of finding one of these books would be infinitely improbable while simultaneously being infinitely probable. It’s a concept which hopefully does not hold true in our own universe (the universe is not infinite, nor can matter itself be infinite), yet operating under this premise it seems unlikely that one would find a book, let alone an entire sentence in this sort of library. People in The Library of Babel, however, do find such books so I think something (Borges moving the plot along more than likely) is making this happen. All this being said it is possible for an individual to stumble upon a book which could outline how to meet one’s soul-mate, or cook the best cake, etc, etc.

One day a purifier was rummaging through a stack of books all containing the letter ‘A’ with differing placements of ampersands. After picking up another such book this purifier happened to flip to a random page with discernable text. It stated that the next book that man picked up would be the answer to all his questions. He did not believe what he read until he pulled a random book from another floor of the library the next day and written over and over again was the phrase: ‘ask a question.’ He humored the book and asked it a simple math mathematical equation. The next book he pulled had the answer written in various ways throughout its pages. He did this over and over again. Regardless of where he pulled a book from the correct answer to his question was always written.
He asked the library questions of increasing difficulty. He asked questions about historical figures of the past. Some things he could confirm. Others he asked merely out of pleasure. There came a time that he decided to put his gift to use. He asked the library questions about illnesses that afflicted his fellow man. The library gave him cures for whatever he described. Once, in a display of arrogance he decided to keep asking varying questions but only pull from a line of books arranged in the same row. They all still had the correct answers. There came a time when he began to ask questions about his existence. Why he had been selected. He asked why he was. Why anything was. The answers he received did not make sense to him. The question on everyone’s mind was how the library worked. He asked. The answer he got was too complicated for even the wisest to interpret.
After the books he pulled had made him a considerable amount of money there was a rumor that someone else too shared a similar gift. A younger woman noticed that any question in her head was answered by a book she touched. Her fame grew as steadily as his did. Over time people began to realize that the woman and the man did not get the same answer for the same questions from the library. One day it was decided that the two should meet and ask the library which person was correct. When they did so the library told each person that the other was the one who held the answers. Each asked the library if it ever lied to the people. Each book read no over and over.

Borges Prompt 1, second reading.

Jorge Borges' short story “Three Versions of Judas” is written in classic “Borges” fashion. The story is a work of fiction, but the style it is written in could easily cause it to be confused as a scholarly article. By fashioning certain stories this way, I believe that Borges could easily use his writings to insert his own opinions about race, gender, class, and specifically religion into mainstream culture. People who read his works masked as nonfiction are more likely to relate to and believe the ideas presented in the “scholarly” article then if the story were shaped as a fictitious tale.

Religion, specifically Judaism, is a mainstay in most of Borges’ literature. This is significant when one considers the time period many of his short stories were written during. Borges’ approach to Judaism can be described as philo-Semitic, which is the opposite of anti-Semitism, as he supported and wrote about Judaism in a positive light in many of his stories. “Three Versions of Judas” in particular was published in 1944, three years after the start of World War II. This story-essay is not Judaic in content, and instead focuses on the writer Nils Runeberg and his controversial religious writings about the Christian apostle Judas. His journey from a sane “deeply religious man” to an individual “drunk with sleeplessness and his dizzying dialectic” is chronicled in the short essay-story (Borges, 167). I found the correlation between Religion and insanity to be interesting. The initial idea that I thought Borges’ wanted to convey was that religious knowledge put an individual closer to God. On closer inspection, I saw that it was the opposite. Borges’ is implying that it is wrong one to “assume an error in the Scriptures is intolerable” and the punishment handed down for those who try to find inconsistencies or tried to find the “true” meaning behind ideas/people, is death.

Throughout the story-essay it appears that Borges is attempting to cast Nils Runeberg as an antagonist. I believe that this due to his obsession with trying to prove that the “inexplicable betrayer” was actually God in disguise (Borges, 165). It also may be due to Runeberg’s assumed German Heritage. As stated above, Borges’ was supportive of the Jewish faith, and was once even accused of being Jewish himself. This leads me to believe that Nils Runeberg, or even just Nazi Germans in general were the final version of Judas that the title “Three Versions of Judas” was referring to. The first was the original Judas himself; the second one referring to the Runeberg imagined Judas, and the last referring to the Germans who had a hand in the Jewish holocaust. The third could definitely be described as the “ultimate betrayer”, as they betrayed mankind with the atrocities they imposed against the Jewish people during WWII.

The last two paragraphs of the story-essay are important. It is in within these two paragraphs that remorse is seen on Runeberg’s part. At that point Runeberg realizes that he himself has performed blasphemous acts by speaking “against the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12:31) which shall not be forgiven” (Borges, 167). Runeberg however does not ask for forgiveness, and instead cries out “for a blessing-that he be allowed to share the Inferno with the Redeemer” (Borges, 167). It can be extrapolated that Borges’ believes that there are some actions that are so bad, that they cannot be forgiven and are worthy of “infinite punishment” (Borges, 167). This idea can be applied to both Runeberg's blasphemous thoughts and writings against God, as well as the onslaught of terror brought down upon the Jewish at the hands of Nazi Germany.

Borges week 2, prompt 1

Big Fight. Anger. Slamming the door. Taking off with no intended destination. Dead of winter, icy roads. Car swerves out of control. Tries to gain control of the truck. Fail. Flipping off the road. Bad accident, and the loss of a life. Life is truly unexpected.
On December 19, 2009 about the middle of the day I received a phone call that one of my best friends had died in a car accident. At that moment, I couldn’t believe it, the only thought running through my mind was there is no possible way that it could have happened to him. I was stunned and couldn’t grasp the concept that he had died in a terrible accident. My hometown community and friends didn’t know what to do or say besides morn over the loss.
It’s been a little over a year now that my friend passed away and it has made me question my own beliefs. Death is a very controversial topic that can be debated about forever. The question involving death and where you end up when your life on earth is over is a mystery. Of course the religious aspect of either going to heaven or hell can be the main answer to the question. Until I encountered this experience, I truly never questioned my belief system. I truly think someone can’t question their beliefs until a tragic event has occurred in their life. Before this event occurred I assumed there was no particular direction in life, I believed that each individual decision that a person makes has an effect on the outcome in their future. I never really thought that maybe our lives as humans have a predestined future that is set in stone. But now I believe that there is a possibility that our lives may have a mapped out future that we do not have any control of.     
This topic of our belief system has been debated about for centuries and the meaning of life and why we were created. People over time have searched for answers to the actual meaning of life on earth. Many different answers have been brought up, but the true meaning behind them may never be known. The fact that we as humans do not know the answer to these questions is very troubling to people that are in search for an answer as to why. It is hard not knowing what lies in the future of our lives, because we are unable to plan what is ahead of us. As Borges points out in The Circle Ruins, “in happiness or in mere confusion; it was only natural that the sorcerer should fear for the future…” It’s difficult not to know the future.  I have felt that maybe I could have done something to change the outcome of this situation if I had know the final result.  But this is not the world that we live in and you cannot prevent events from occurring if they are ultimately destined to happen.
If our lives are truly predestined then there must be a higher being who is creating that path. Its possible that we have found the true identity of this higher being but it is impossible to truly confirm it. It is also possible that we cant even begin to rap ourselves around this realm of what the higher being actually is. And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Life is unexpected, so you cant change your pre destination. For the past year many of the events in my life have been affected by this tragic event. I have come to the point where I understand that many of the questions that have stemmed from his death will never be answered. Maybe the only time these questions may be answered is when I die or maybe not. Or maybe there isn’t a meaning behind our existence and when you die your life simply may just end.

Borges Week 2 Prompt One

I wish to create a brilliant fictional writer, to bring a being to life from my imagination who can spawn characters and stories from scratch in the same manner from which I have envisioned him. So with this wish in mind, I created a boy. This boy was exceptionally bright, and in his youth he excelled in his studies. However, despite his academic achievement, he could not break past the conventional, normative mode of fictional literature. My hopes remained strong, but they were not fulfilled as he continued to grow older. After a few years of watching him try but fail to advance in his literary pursuits, I decided that I needed a mulligan, another bite at the apple.

In order to ensure that the next apparition that sprang from my imagination would set the world ablaze with the fictional word, I decided it would be necessary to handicap him in a way that would further his creativity. After pondering the various ailments I could potentially burden him with, I decided to deprive him of the majority of his working eyesight. It was my belief that this would be addition by subtraction, his mind would be a near blank slate, and he would only get clues from the outside world, his imagination would have to compensate for the images his eyes failed to deliver. I named this boy Jorge Luis Borges, and set him loose upon the world.

Early in little Jorge's youth, it became apparent that my imagination had struck gold, that this boy would fulfill my dreams and more. When his "mother", took him to the zoo, he would stand, transfixed in front of the tigers for hours upon hours. He was determined to maintain his gaze, for when his "mother" tried to pry him away, he would wail and throw fits, until she eventually succumbed to his iron will, as the tiger's presence provided him with the imaginary nourishment he needed to achieve his mandated purpose. Eventually these zoo related events would become immortalized in his work, "Dreamtigers", where he recounts his boyhood exploits. I watched with pleasure, as these experiences would surely push him to new heights as an author.

As Jorge grew into a mature author, he began to explore the gap between reality and fantasy with vigor. Most notably, he confronted this very subject dead on in "The Circular Ruins". I marveled at the way his imagination grasped a scenario with circumstances nearly identical to his own supernatural inception. He tells the story about an educator who travels to an abandoned jungle, where he finds an ancient circular structure, falls into a deep meditation and tries to choose a student to teach perfectly. His original choice fails to live up to his expectation, so the man, like me, starts fresh. He imagines a new figure, a red apparition that meets all of the man's goals and more. However, the fire demands that the man's "son" be sent to the ruins. The man complies, and begins to get his son prepared to live in a different sort of reality. When he ultimately bids farewell to his creation, the man comes to the realization that he himself might not even be real, that he might be the creation of another being's imagination. At this moment I watched Jorge come full circle, as his character accepts the fate that he himself occupies. I have created him from my own imagination, with the purpose that he exists to author spectacular works of fiction, in a manner that is unique to the field. And now he has fulfilled that, by writing "The Circular Ruins", a brilliant, multi-layered story that achieves goals in four pages that ordinary authors cannot reach in hundreds. Also, Jorge, at least indirectly, comes to terms with his own creation, as "the man" looks up to see him, he, with his almost non-existent vision, vaguely sees a slight out line of me, smiling with achievement.

Much Ado About Everything

I am a very simple man. I write plays, they are performed, people throw tomatoes at my actors and I. Predictably, I save all the good roles for myself. I can do that you know, being the playwright. Day after day I arrive at the theater. I do the same thing for the same amount of time until I get to go home. Then the play is performed. I write another play and everything happens again. What a boring life! I have no spirit. The only feeling I have is when I am on stage. There I can be someone else. There, I don’t have to worry about a thing except for what my character is worrying about. It is so refreshing to be someone other than myself. Who would want to be me? I have an ugly wife who I hate. I had three children until my son died and I make a mere pittance for the plays that I write. I wish I could do something, be something more. Have more fun with my life. Maybe it wasn’t worth it anymore. Why should I do something that gets me nowhere? Playwrights are condemned, ridiculed and did I mention the money was shit? I think it might be better for me to be a shoemaker. Everyone needs shoes. Shoes are absolutely necessary. I’d be able to make money for my own purposes and send the rest off to my children. I’ve decided! I’m tired of this playwrighting. I give up as of tonight.

Well, as they say (I’m not really sure who….), be careful what you wish for.

After rehearsal (my last rehearsal), I went to the pub. I had a few tankards, ate some food and was sitting there, minding my own business when a man arrived and came to sit next to me. He seemed vaguely familiar but he was wearing the oddest of clothes. I’d never seen clothes like that. The slacks were long, the man had no stockings and the shirt had the oddest things keeping it together. He was wearing a heavier version of his shirt and had the shiniest shoes on (just think! I could have made them). The strangely dressed man ordered ale and glanced at me periodically. Eventually he said, “Hello there, friend.”

I responded, “I’m not quite sure who you are, therefore I do not believe we are friends.”

The man said, “My name is William and I have come from far away to meet you. You see, you may not know me, but I know you. You are William Shakespeare. The greatest playwright the world has ever known. I am teaching Much Ado About Nothing to my students right now actually.” His eyes looked huge, almost as though he could not believe he was sitting next to me, a playwright turned shoemaker.

I replied, “I don’t believe you have the right man. Yes, my name is William Shakespeare but I have only written three plays as of now. And I do not play to write anymore. The pay is horrible, the prestige is nonexistent and it is so monotonous. I have decided to become a shoemaker. I like your shoes by the way. Maybe you can teach me to make them. I’d like to learn. They would be very popular. “ Well, the look on his face can only be described as shock and horror mixed together. He looked down to his shoes then up to my face, repeated this motion and then started laughing. He laughed so hard, I though ale was going to come out of his nose. Then he said, “You are joking, you must be. It is not possible for you to be anyone else. You are William Shakespeare. I programmed the machine to take me here. You are supposed to be in the middle of writing The Taming of the Shrew. What year is it?”

“It is the year of our lord one thousand five hundred ninety two.”

“Truly? And you believe are going to give up? You haven’t even thought of King Lear. Oh! Oh no! This just won’t do. You absolutely need to continue writing. Did you not hear me when I said that you are going to be one of the most famous playwrights the world has ever seen? You will be. I know it.”

“Well, I can take you to my theater. You can tell my group and see how it goes. I bet you last no more than ten minutes in there. They will laugh you out of the building. And how, pray tell, can you know that I will even be remotely famous? I can barely pay for my house.”

“I, Mr. Shakespeare, am from the future. 2011 to be exact. I am a professor of Shakespearean literature at the Oxford University. I have devoted my life to your works, as have many of my friends and colleagues. I am teaching one of your plays to my students right now, Much Ado About Nothing. I suppose you have no idea what I am talking about since that play was written after this. How else would I know that Richard III and Henry VI Parts 1,2,3 were your most successful plays to date and after those you wrote Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

“I supposed you attend the theatre often.” I responded offhandedly.

“No, I know all of your plays inside out. “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York, and all the clouds that loured upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”(I.i.1-4) That is the opening line to Richard III. How would I know that line, word for word, if I did not teach it countless times before? You are THE William Shakespeare. The world loves and adores your stories brought forth in plays because they are timeless.”

Then I woke up. I supposed that was one of the oddest dreams I have ever had but it has helped me. I do not want to be a shoemaker. I am a playwright. I doubt I will be world famous but I love to do it. I am William Shakespeare, and I have a new idea for a play. It shall be called A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Borges Day 2 Option 1

In order to create another human being with only your imagination you must be keenly aware on all of your senses as well as total control of your mind. Only a very powerful individual would be able to pull off a feat of this magnitude. Not even a wizard would have been able to complete this feat of the imagination without the help of a higher force. Could this force be that of the higher being that we call God, or could it be something else that our imagination cannot even begin to comprehend? It could be that this higher being is out of the realm of human thought.

For centuries intellectuals across the globe have searched for the answer to the question “why are we here?”. There have been many theories presented that have tried to explain this question but without knowledge this higher being there will never be a definitive answer to who or what this higher being really is.

This question has also been studied by religious organizations. Each has their own theories which they seem to use as a definitive answer. Each is different in its own way and none will ever be proven. Some of these religious organizations have lead crusades against other religions in order to attempt convert their beliefs. Centuries ago the Catholic Church lead a series of crusades against Europe in order to convert their beliefs to Catholicism. This only resulted in bloodshed and never really achieved its intended outcome.

Even today religions like Islam are waging “holy wars” against the world. They believe that their beliefs are true and they are willing to die in order to prove that fact. This has become a major problem in the world today and it is only going to get worse as people become more and more frustrated that they cannot find an answer to this question.

When this world was first created there was a constant fear of the future. There is no knowledge of what the future holds and that fact has been a major driving force behind the search for meaning in life. People are inherently curious. They do not want to be surprised by an outcome especially if that outcome turns out to be bad for them. In this sense it is only natural that people find out the meaning why we are here. It is difficult to not know why we are here. It is hard because we want to know that our life serves some purpose. If our life is purposeless, then why are we here on his earth?

Could it be that we are just pawns in a stupid game? Could our lives have a higher meaning that we are unable to comprehend with the little we know about the world we live in? It is very possible that we will never fully understand the purpose of our existence even following our death. This is a very troubling aspect of our world and it will continue to be one until the end of time.

Just as in the Circular Ruins people on earth have tried to find the purpose of their existence and get outside the realm of the believable. It is possible to relate the creation of the sorcerer’s son to many of the scientific techniques that doctors and scientists have begun to use in the realm of cloning. Creating a being from another being is something that has since been proven to be possible. This scientific discovery almost makes the higher being that we believe in to seem less powerful. Many religious organizations have called out that this goes against their religion and have thus spoken out against the techniques.

If we are able to create other beings from something else then why can’t there be a higher being that can do his on a much larger scale? This is a question that I believe will never be answered. It will continue to plague generation after generation.

Borges Week 2, Option 1

This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will, and since I have unlimited power, I am going to bring forth a tiger.”(294) This is what Borges’ conscious mind thinks. So he loved tigers? And he wants to envision the perfect tiger? Well his unconscious mind, me, is telling him “No.” I am not about to let him see that tiger. But what he does not know is that he doesn’t have unlimited power. I do. I control his dreams, whether he likes it or not. It amuses me to see him so fervently try to achieve that ultimately beautiful tiger he so desires, when in the end, I will not let him have it. His dreams are always about this “perfect tiger” and if I give him that he will no longer have anything to dream. If I give him that tiger he may lose the one thing keeping him alive: imagination. No matter how frustrated he becomes or how persistent he may be in his efforts to attain this image, I will hold strong.

He analyzes all other people and figures out why they can or cannot achieve the goal they have set for themselves. As in The Circular Ruins the man isn’t able to find the student and eventually son he desires at first because he could not truly connect with the pupil because of a lack of personal attention; “One day the man emerged from sleep as though from a viscous desert, looked up at the hollow light of the evening (which for a moment he confused with the light of dawn), and realized that he had not dreamed” (97-98). The man couldn’t actually see the pupil as he so desired in his sleep, because his sleep was not ideal. My job here is to ensure Borges’ sleep is not ideal in order to prevent his dreaming of the perfect tiger. As soon as I give him the opportunity for ideal sleep he will take over my abilities and, because he won’t need me anymore, he will die. I will continue to let his dreams come closer and closer to seeing the anticipated image, but his dream will fall short, just short enough of that goal that he will continue to pursue it each and every night. It will not be until he is ready to let go of the temporal world that I will give him the satisfying image of the perfect tiger.

“The tiger does appear, but it is all dried up, or it’s flimsy-looking, or it has impure vagaries of shape or an unacceptable size, or it’s altogether too ephemeral, or it looks more like a dog or a bird than like a tiger” (294). This is the prime example of what I aim for in letting him get so close to his idyllic tiger. It is these comments of his that ensure my success. What he also doesn’t realize is that although I have the main control, it is his own abilities that inhibit his dreams. His own analyzing of those who have vivid dreams, such as those blind or deaf, should be a clear connection to the limits of his dreams. The man in The Circular Ruins is able to achieve the perfect son and student because he himself has been dreamed by another, therefore he hadn’t had the experiences to fully inhibit him from what he so desired: “With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he realized that he, too, was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him” (100). It has been interpreted that he believed those people with impairments can dream so vividly because of their lack of personal experience. Their dreams give them what their body cannot. Borges has already had the luxury of staring at, and analyzing probably hundreds of tigers in his childhood. It is only now that I, his own unconscious mind, am taking that away from him even though it is the only thing he desires to dream. As his blindness progresses I will allow him to gradually see more of this tiger, and more often it will have less imperfections, until finally he sees the ultimate tiger which will mark the end of his quest; the end of his life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reading Assignment for next time

Read through page 96 of House of Leaves for our next class.

What Will Die With Me The Day I Die?--The Witness

They say that your life flashes before your eyes before you die.

A gleaming blade.

What if you see nothing? Does that mean that your life didn’t matter?

A drop slowly forms.

What does it mean to “matter”? Who decides that? Fate? God? Is there even such an entity? Is your life worth based upon who remembers you? What if there is no one?

A rounded bead.

What if instead of what you’re supposed to do—go to college, earn a career, find a mate to marry, have kids, get the house with the white picket fence and the lovable Labrador running around in the yard—what if you didn’t do any of that? Do you then not count?

A stain widens.

Is your life worth less than someone who leaves behind a lineage? But what if you don’t leave behind a lineage? What if you don’t matter to anyone?

A trickle down.

Does that mean that all of your emotions and all of your experiences were all for naught? There must be some impact left from a single life, right?

A dull drip.

What if you impact life in a way that you don’t even realize? What if you wake up late one morning and in the rush to get to work on time, you cut someone off who was going no place in particular at no particular hurry? What if that same motorist was someone who all their life has been bullied and harassed and belittled and when one car cuts them off, it is the last straw? What if they decide they have had enough and decide to stop and pick up an AK-47 for a special surprise at work the next morning for their bosses?

A pool collects.

What if he was successful and a police officer, 30 years on the job without ever firing his weapon, had to take the kill-shot? What if he wasn’t able to cope and turned to alcohol? What if he thought he was okay to drive one night and wasn’t? What if the father of the children who were killed because of that accident was a man who was bullied and harassed and belittled his whole life and now that he has nothing to live for, decides that this was the last straw and goes out the next day in search of vengeance? Should you, who have started this vicious cycle, should you never have been born?

Or is it because that man purposefully went around speeding until a cop pulled him over so that he could shoot that police officer, all done so that the son of that slain man would grow up to join the highest ranks of government and enact stricter regulations to prevent what happened to his father from happening again? Are you to then be applauded?

What if you feel nothing? What do you see?

What will die with me the day I die? The hopelessness of my murderer staring back at me in the mirror.

Borges Week 2 Prompt 1

      “Time is the Tiger that devours me, but I am that Tiger.” – Jorge Luis Borges.  Jorge identifies himself as Time, in order to have a way of controlling his own future.  In a deeper sense, here having the meaning of Blind:  he is free from restraint, able to create or destroy his own life when he pleases – Choice.  Blind to rules and Blind to labyrinths – he himself is able to “see” and therefore – is unbound by Time.  Be it for frightened or Aware and enlightened ones, his line of reasoning identifies himself as a strong and powerful being: devouring himself is a Choice that he made.  Contrastingly, if this idea of being Time were to be unknown to another: the un-blind and unenlightened one, they would acquire a false belief that they themselves control their own destiny.  Meaning, that from this misunderstanding – their belief of possessing a Choice to alter or knowingly guide their lives is merely just an illusion.  It will lead them through endless circular labyrinths through space and time:  Unknowingly unable to Chose – infinitely self-devoured.  Oh, the incompetence of the un-blind: Lonnrot.

      From the existence of this un-blind man, one may understand that he may only be allowed to falsely dream, create, and imagine his own Choices: choices that resemble his own fate – regrettably a false perception.   Unaware that he will never be able to come by Chance, unless truly blinded, an idea of escapism is unimaginable.  Moreover, the reason that the un-blind have become so entrenched and trapped in this falsehood of reality is because of their disability to see: a myopic vision of imagination.  An example of this can be seen in one of Borges’ original works, “Death and the Compass”.  In this tale, Lonnrot, a detective, is unable to see as Borges might see: Blind and enlightened.  Also, although Lonnrot may have some acute “awareness” of his entrapment, he believes himself unable to ever escape his endless cyclical pattern: a pattern of death.  And from this, he will sadly never be able to become fully Aware like Borges: a Blind Creator of his own destiny.

      From this, it can be implied that when and only when one has become truly Blind, can one then become truthfully Aware: seeing, creating, and Choosing as preferred.  Unlike Borges, detective Lonnrot does not Choose to die: he simply does as mechanically as possible.  With out a lessoned learned, he, no matter where or in what universe, will always be drawn in and killed by his own failing weakness: following clues to a timely planned death.  Also, one might reason that when Lonnrot is Perceived in the beginning of the story as being a, “… reasoning machine…” (147) That this in itself can be seen as a bit of ironic.  Implying, that with these alleged gifts of reason he is also said to be mechanical:  But as one knows, only a true Blind and Aware man could possibly obtain these blessed traits.  Machines, like in other stories we have read, are knowingly unable to become purely Aware and therefore reasoning.  On a random, but germane fact, Lonnrot’s fate could be coupled with that of the creature Grendel: Although slightly aware of an existence – they are both forever damned.  From this mechanical association, possibilities are instantly shut down and any chance of perhaps understanding or becoming one with Time is completely demolished. By becoming defined as a machine, he is now unable to tap into the empire that which is dreams and therefore – Choices.

      Harnessing this flaw, Scharlach, in his newfound Blindness, is now able to see into the Labyrinth that Lonnrot is eternally trapped by.  Trapped by time and unable to become one with it, Lonnrot will continue, no matter in what life or universe, this endless cyclical pattern.  Moreover, no matter when the un-blind may attempt a striation off the “path” – even with, meticulous care and alleged intelligence, they will never be able to escape their fate and in that – death.  For most of the un-blind, by believing the “false perception” of being able to control time, they believe that they have a Choice when in fact they don’t.  They are neither lost nor blind, so therefore they cannot begin to imagine how to understand, navigate, or create Choices through time.  This is why the contrary impresses me so, because ones like Borges, who are truly lost and Blind, have a God given ability to Choose and Create as they desire:  Perhaps at this level of enlightenment, even their own God.

      From all this, an intellectual might say in summation that in order to be “found” like Borges, one must truly become lost: or in this case – Blind to all that is binding.  Labyrinths.  However, if like Borges, one is blessed with the chance and circumstance to become an Aware individual: and in that sense – truly Blind.  One may then and only then, understand the statement that they themselves are the Time-Tiger.  Conversely, for those unlike Borges, and in that – non-enlightened:  they will endlessly be stuck on the merry-go-round of undesirable fate.  For Lonnrot, and ones like him, only certain death waits behind each door:  no matter ones perception of freedom – Choice or striation will never be conceivable.  When there are no Choices, there cannot be life:  One is bound by the mechanics of time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prompt 1

The Circular Ruins is thought to be as one of the works of Herbert Quain. The Circular Ruins parallels much of what was said about Herbert Quain’s stories within A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain. After reading these two stories, I found them very confusing. I found that drawing a connection between the two stories seems to come back to the same starting point. Where in each story there has been a character that has been identified with an original “work”. But in actuality both are not real characters. The idea of imagination appears to be the main theme within the two stories.
As in The Circular Ruins, Quain revolves the story around the idea of fantasy. The wizard turns out to be the creation instead of the creator. The wizard doesn’t realize his life is an allusion and he continues to try to create his son. Since the wizard cannot have a son, he is creating one with the likeness of a real human being. As Quain states, “since everyone is not capable of experiencing that pleasure, many will have to content themselves with simulacra” (111). This allows for an interpretation of whether or not there is a never-ending sequence of creations and creators. In a sense the creation will never know that he is a creation, it could be on going cycle. There could be no ultimate creator, and it could go on for infinity.

The Circular Ruins, can also be described as the reader being the creator. “The reader, blinded by vanity, believes that he himself has come up with them” (111). The wizard doesn’t know he is imaginary because the dreamer has created him. The dreamer dreamt of this fictional wizard that was blinded by vanity of his true existence and creation as a whole. “To be not a man, but the projection of another man’s dream-what incomparable humiliation” (100). The wizard finds out that he is just an appearance from a man dreaming about his creation. It may also be speculated that the creator may be blinded as well to fully understand that the creation of the wizard is not a reality. The dreamer envisions the wizard as creating a son, in reality its just his imagination being the creator of a character in his dream.

Both stories are allusions in that they both have fictional characters. The wizard is the fictional character as Quain is the fictional author. As Quain, declares that of the many kinds of pleasure literature can minister, the highest is the pleasure of imagination” (111). Writing as a whole can be described as using made up ideas and characters to portray a story. The author is the creator of the piece of work as the wizard is the created character that dreams about a son. Quain believes “there is no European man or women that’s not a writer, potentially or in fact” (111). As the author is the creator of their work they are entailed to construct something of interest for the reader. Quain describes readers as a “distinct species” and literature should enlighten the reader’s imagination and provide pleasure while reading.

Borges Day 1 Option 1

I believe that the most significant aspect of The Circular Ruins and A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain being a part of Herbert Quain’s works is the fact that he is a fictional character. The fact that Jorge Luis Borges decided to use a fictional character to write one of his stories is very interesting to me. Could this simply be another interesting writing style of Borges, or could this mean something more in-depth?

I believe that throughout his work, Jorge Luis Borges uses many different writing styles. Sometimes he writes about personal experiences, other times he makes up a fictional character to tell a story with a deeper meaning about the days of his time. In this instance Borges has used a fictional character to be the author of one of his own stories. Could this mean that he does not want to allow people to know that he was the writer? It could also simply be that he wanted to try another different writing technique.

This technique has been used by other writers in the past in different ways. many writers used fictional names when they were writing in order to not reveal their identities. This is a very confusing style of writing. Borges is in effect writing a critique of a fictional author which he created, associating work with him, and then evaluating it. In effect Borges is critiquing his own writing as if it were someone else’s.

Throughout the story The Circular Ruins, Borges writes about a wizard who believes that he is creating his son through his dreams. In actuality he is the one who has been created through someone else’s dream. This brings to question could this be a never ending line of creations and creators? Could there be someone creating the creator of the wizard and so on?

I’m not sure how to even go about finding a solution to this question.

In the story A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain, Borges has created a fictional character named Herbert Quain who is a deceased Irish writer. Throughout the story Borges talks about Quain’s works which in actuality are his own. Why would an author associate his works with a fictional character? This is a very confusing style of writing. I have come to several conclusions but they all get too complicated to even continue thinking about.

I have thought about The Circular Ruins and have come to one possible conclusion. Could Borges simply be telling us that life is simply an illusion? Could our existence here be just a dream created by some higher being or are we actually here? Do we have the ability to make choices which will impact our final outcome depending on the path that we take? This is all brought into question in this story. Although we think that we are actually here it may just be a dream that has been made up by someone else. This higher being may simply be manipulating us into the idea that we are real when in actuality we are only a dream.

It has confusing to try to sort through all of the possibilities that could exist from this story. I was also confusing myself when trying to draw a connection between The Circular Ruins and the existence of Herbert Quain. Could Quain be Borges wizard? Did he create him like the dreamer created the wizard? What reason did he have to create him? Was it for entertainment or is there an underlying meaning behind his existence?

In conclusion there are many similarities between these two stories in that the main character has been created by someone else. It does create some interesting but very confusing possibilities. I have been unable to draw any conclusions from these possibilities but I do understand that they exist.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prompts for Borges, Week 2

Option 1:  Write a Borges story about a Borges story.  Here's what I mean:  Borges obviously likes telling stories and getting ideas across through stories, essays, and essay-stories about other authors, both real and fictional.  Do the same to him:  write a story, or story-essay, which uses one of his stories to make a point which *you* want to make.  The content of the story, and your area of interest, are up to you.  The only other requirement - and you will be evaluated on it - is that you show a good understanding of Borges in general, and your chosen story in particular.

Option 2:  Yes, this is a repeat.  Go to the library, either physically or virtually.  You need to find a scholarly article on Borges, or an excerpt from a book about Borges (think 20-40 pages) *or* on a clearly related topic (for instance, gnosticism), which *must* be from the Pitt library.  I strongly suggest that you use the MLA Database.  I'm going to give you a link - you may need to log in if you're off campus, and the link may be different on campus, etc.  If you have trouble, you can ask me for help, but it might be easier to deal with a librarian - it's up to you.


Once you have picked and read an article, you need to do two things.

1)  Summarize one of its arguments, making use of citations and possibly quotes from it.
2)  Apply it to our class discussion - either extend or critique something we/I had to say about the poem, using this scholarly article.

FOR THIS OPTION ONLY, you may take until 4 p.m. on Saturday (that deadline is firm).  If you're doing so, just email me to let me know IN ADVANCE.

Also, you must cite your article, using whatever citation method you know.  If you don't know any, google either the MLA method of citation, or the Chicago style, and use one or the other.

Option 3:  I may, or may not, add another option after class.  Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Open Thread For Second Borges Reading

I understood and liked the first two of the three stories we had to read this week much more than I did the stories of last week. I am split though on which one I liked more, Death in the Compass or The Three Versions of Judas. Death in the Compass reminded me of the really bad cartoon villain speeches as the end. Before Red Scharlach kills Lonnerot, he explains each and every thing he did to get Lonnerot to his present position. Though extremely interesting, I was waiting for Lonnerot to jump up and somehow be save by the police force. This is what normally happens when the villain takes too long telling us about his crime. Instead, the story just ends with Lonnerot being killed. My question is: Is this Borges trying to give Scharlach revenge because it makes the story circular or does he have another reason to do away with the main character? I thought that Scharlach’s way of trapping Lonnerot was inspired. He did everything exactly right and Lonnerot fell into his trap. Does this have a feeling of fate? Was Lonnerot destined to die that day? Is that why he could do nothing but listen as Scharlach tells of his undoing?

The Three Versions of Judas was especially interesting for me, as I grew up Catholic. I was taught that Judas blatantly betrayed Jesus for money. We were all taught to hate him as the great betrayer of Our Lord. I very much enjoyed Runeberg’s first version of Judas. It is a very interesting prospect and makes me wonder if it was his motivation. My question though, is what made Runeberg try to tell Judas’s story if he was so religious. That does not make sense to me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Prompt One

Both the Circular Ruins and An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain play with the idea of our perception of reality. They are similar stories in that they both deal with the creation of a character. The interconnectedness of the two stories remind the reader of the importance of imagination and the fickle nature of our perception of reality.
Jorge Borges asserts that one’s perception of reality could be an elaborate illusion. One’s consciousness could just be another being’s imagination. He is not the first person to allude to this idea. Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass makes this argument when Tweedledee tells Alice that by waking the Red King she would end her life in a sense. Supposedly Alice is just a character in the King’s dream and imagination. Alice is effectively a figment of another creature’s imagination and yet she is entirely unaware of her connection to this person. The Circular Ruins is a story built around this concept. At the end of the story the Sorcerer, “with relief, with humiliation and terror, understood that he, too, was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him “(100). Borges states that The Circular Ruins is based largely if not entirely on Herbert Quain’s fictional collection of stories Statements. In his review of this fictional piece he writes that the reader is “blinded by vanity” and that he is convinced that “he himself has come up with [his son]” (111). The Sorcerer is stunned to learn that his existence is merely the extension of another being’s existence. He believed it he was he that was creating the man. He thought of the man as so perfect and educated that he remained ‘blind’ to the fact that he was in fact much like his own creation. Just like as his creation discovers its true nature he too discovers that he is really just an idea in the mind of another.
Herbert Quain is Borges fictional creation and he crafts him in a similar way that the Sorceror crafts his son. He gives him a definite personality through his writing. He praises his writing ability highly and compliments him on his own modesty. The ironic part is that the story which he claims this fictional writer wrote mimics his own creation of Herbert Quain. Borges is stating that he created Quain from his own imagination, yet he may just as easily be the fake character in the real Herbert Quain’s fictional story. Borges is trying to illustrate the concept of perception’s fragility with fiction and fantasy. According to Borges there is one goal of the author and that is to exercise a reader’s imagination: “Of the many kinds of pleasure literature can minister, the highest is the pleasure of the imagination” (111). The idea of fantasy and the imagination are important to both Borges and Herbert Quain. Borges states that the best work Quain ever did was a fantasy story. In the fantastical story The Circular Ruins the boy that is created through imagination is said to be perfect because he is a fantasy. When the sorcerer tried making a boy with a model he failed to keep his heart beating. Finally he had to craft his son, “with painstaking love, for fourteen brilliant nights. Each night he perceived it with greater clarity, greater certainty. He did not touch it: he only witnessed it, observed it, corrected it, perhaps, with his eyes” (98). In much the same way Borges values the imaginary Quain as a writer.
By making himself much like the sorcerer in his own story Borges makes the fantastical elements of that story more palpable. We are able to see an actual person creating another in our own physical world. In this way the theme of the story becomes more apparent and believable. We are questioning the tangible nature of Borges the man rather than the sorcerer the character. We are also reminded of the importance of imagination as this opens our minds to this kind of thought.

Option 1

Upon first reading the two stories, “The Circular Ruins” and “A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain”, I didn’t realize how many aspects of “The Circular Ruins” are in the details of “A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain”. While rereading the two and specifically looking for characteristics of “The Circular Ruins” it became fairly clear to me that the chances of that story being a work of Herbert Quain were very likely.

One of the first features I noticed within “A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain” was where Borges mentions that many of Quain’s works are constructed in a backwards manner. Borges states, “Quain’s foreword prefers instead to allude to that backward-running world posited by Bradley, in which death precedes birth, the scar precedes the wound, and the wound precedes the blow” (108). I connected that aspect of Quain’s work with “The Circular Ruins” in regards to how the main character forms the heart in his dreams. I see the “backward-running world” playing out because the man must retract from his original dream and build the man rather than find him out of a crowd. This is exemplified starting on page 97 and expanding to page 98 with the paragraph starting “On the ninth or tenth night, he realized (with some bitterness)…” and is elaborated through the sentence “Almost immediately he dreamed a beating heart”. Borges also mentions that Quain tends to write “regressively and ramifying” (109). Regression is prominent in “The Circular Ruins” in similar contexts as the “backward-running world”. Ramification is apparent when it is stated that “his dreams were chaotic; a little later, they became dialectical” (97). This is a prime example of the ramification that Quain so diligently put into his writings because, from this point on, the details of the story branch out to show how the man conducted his dreams, which ended up going in multiple directions until he came upon the specific dream that he desired.

Elements of retrograde seen in Quain’s April March (as told by Borges) is that he writes of consecutive nights, although in April March each night precedes the next. It shares characteristics with “The Circular Ruins” because we are taken into the dreams of the man on many consecutive occasions.

We are also told that Quain has novels whose themes include “symbolic; another supernatural;…another psychological…” (109). I connected “The Circular Ruins” with these themes because of what I recognized as supernatural and psychological aspects of the story. The supernatural aspect being present when deities, Gnostic thought and biblical references are discussed and said to have influenced the man’s thought on his dream. Quain says, “In the cosmogonies of the Gnostics, the demiurges knead up a red Adam who cannot manage to stand…After making vows to all the deities of the earth and the river, he threw himself at the feet of the idol that was perhaps a tiger or perhaps a colt, and he begged for his untried aid” (99). That proves that Quain was concerned with the idea of a higher power and he wanted to convey that through his writings. In regards to connecting the psychological aspect of Quain’s work, the fact that the plot of “The Circular Ruins” is about a man dreaming also shows Quain’s interest in psychology and psychological functions of the brain. It shows that he believed the mind could do more than just think in the conscious state and people can expand their thoughts beyond the temporal and use their imagination.

With all of these elements combined, “The Circular Ruins” seems to be a significant work of Herbert Quain because it shows what Quain believed to be important aspects of writing and thinking, such as adding supernatural events, experimental thinking and perception, and an “element of surprise, shock, astonishment” (108). It proves to be significant also because of the intricate ways he was able to incorporate so many theories of his within such a short story, while making it relatively easy to read through, although it may be necessary to go back and reread, simply because of how many intricate details he fused into “The Circular Ruins”.