The Literature of Exhaustion
The essay was highly influential, and for some controversial. It depicted literary realism as a "used up" tradition; Barth's description of his own work, which many thought nailed a core trait of postmodernism, is "novels which imitate the form of a novel, by an author who imitates the role of Author".
Barth argued that a particular stage in history was passing, and pointed to possible directions from there. In 1980, he wrote a follow-up essay, "The Literature of Replenishment."
Barth first delivered "The Literature of Exhaustion" in 1967 as a lecture in a Peters Rushton Seminar held at the University of Virginia; it was first printed in The Atlantic in the same year. Since then has been reprinted several times, and was included in Barth's nonfiction collection The Friday Book (1984).
- Death of the novel
- Borges' Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote
- The Death of the Death of the Novel