Mr. Eure | Brewster High School
Funes the Memorious
July 29, 2012Posted by on
The next leg of this summer assignment presents us with “Funes the Memorious,” a short fictional narrative by Jorge Luis Borges. Narratives are all around us; in many ways, they are our most fundamental way of creating meaning—and we are collectively desperate to find meaning in everything from celebrity divorces to tragic shootings. The latter link offers this explanation for our narrative fixation: “Narrative often feels like all we’ve got, because it gives us the illusion of resolution. Stories, after all, have endings. The entrenched reality… does not.”
When you are given fictional narratives in a course like ours, the task is not to dissect them for authorial choice. You are looking for a story’s ramiform resonance: First, how it resonates with you; second, how it resonates with your peers, who will read the same story with you; finally, how it seems to resonate within our shared culture. If you are moved by the construction of the narrative or the prose itself, that’s wonderful, and it’s a kind of resonance. But you are old enough and ostensibly well-read enough to stop “tearing the petals off and grinding them up and running the goo through a spectrometer to explain why a rose smells so pretty,” to use David Foster Wallace’s metaphor for literary analysis.
One alternative approach to a story like “Funes” (and you should Google around for other copies of the text, if you can; that one seems to have a type or two in it): Mimic the way you discuss narratives when school isn’t involved. When you get into a fight with a friend over whether The Dark Knight is a better film than The Dark Knight Rises, you have to use the right terminology to make your case; you reference cinematography, acting, characterization, conflicts, antagonists, resolutions, and so on, and you do that because that’s how we have to judge storytelling. But you don’t write a five-paragraph, thesis-driven essay to explain what the story means, and there is no Teacher’s Guide for The Dark Knight trilogy—at least, not yet—to tell you if you’re right or wrong. You rely on your thoughtful interpretation and your ability to build on the interpretations of others.
Another, somewhat simpler approach to leaving comments on this post: Choose a line that seems to speak to you, and try to convey that resonance to your peers. If you need further prompting, start with this one: “We all live by leaving behind.”