Week 15 Notes and Topics Borges and Salman Rushdie -The Garden of Forking Paths and The Courtier

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Nature of Mathematics
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Chapter 4 / Exercise 32
Nature of Mathematics
Smith
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Borges and “The Garden of Forking Paths”: Notes and TopicsWhere Modernism explored the sense of early 20th century fragmentation, Postmodernism came to focus more on the interconnectedness of those fragments, as well as the connections between past and present, reality and fiction. To the postmodern writer, past and present, reality and fiction blend and merge in a single work. The postmodern story (novel, poem, film) uses the fantastic and realistic, the vulgar and the sublime, the terrifying and the comic in a work that is anything but straightforward. In Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths,” the actual garden paths are only secondary to the paths Borges weaves “between literature and reality, between imaginative writing and documentary composition, with the end result that the imaginary words of fictitious narrative blend into the real world of historical documentation, making the two indistinguishable” (Damrosch, Teaching World Literature, 279).Borges is preoccupied with the shifting planes of human consciousness: mind, thought, perception, consciousness, vision, fantasy, reverie, premonition, intuition, imagination— these are his literary fields, not the three-dimensional reality of shopping malls, banks, insurance policies, and diets. Borges explores the intellectual nature of humanity and its constant search for meaning. Borges’ favorite metaphors are the word itself, the book that frames the word, and the library that houses the book, which in its inimitable way is connected to all the other books, as if all were voices in some kind of universal chorus. The related metaphor used in “The Garden of Forking Paths” for the intertwining mirrors of consciousness is the labyrinth.Topics for Discussion:1. Discuss how the image of the labyrinth evolves in the story and is related to the title of the story.2. What clues does Borges provide at the beginning of his story to create the detective framework for the story?3. Why does Yu Tsun treat his own death with such fatalism?4. Discuss Borges’s use of narrative voices in the story: For example, Liddell Hart’s History of World War I is an actual book, but the quote used in the story is fiction. We might want to treat history books with their names, places, and dates as a basis for reality, but consider how they give the illusion of reality because they are a selection of details and theories and are therefore a kind of fiction.
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Nature of Mathematics
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Chapter 4 / Exercise 32
Nature of Mathematics
Smith
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