The Shirt of Nessus and Italo Calvino
- I rarely post here, but since I have some tangential contact with
Prof. Barth and go to Johns Hopkins, I try to track down Barth
information that others might not have the ability to access.
I have some rather bad news and some prospectively great news
concerning Mr. Barth's past and future works, respectively.
I'll break the bad news first because most people aren't aware of it
in the first place and because the good news will probably cheer you
up. The bad news is that John Barth's Master's Thesis Essay, The
Shirt of Nessus, variously attributed as a novel, novella, or novel-
in-progress, can no longer be found in the university archives. This
is the long-form fiction piece that Professor Barth submitted to the
Writing Seminars program in order to graduate with an M.A. It has
never been published, to my knowledge, in whole or part. The
university supposedly was supplied with two copies; this copy
apparently has been missing for some time. The other copy I have not
been able to track down any history of at all. However, several
professors still at Hopkins who talk to Barth occasionally have
remarked that they feel it is unlikely that he does not still have a
personal copy. Which brings me to the good news...
I intend to ask him about this specific point in person at some time
in the near future, as I have become involved with an academic search-
and-rescue mission. Hopkins has "uncovered" a very rare videoset of
master recordings made of several lectures by Italo Calvino when he
visited the university in March of 1976. John Barth gave most of his
introductions and was present at each of the lectures. We've
transferred the old tapes onto new digital masters and are
tentatively preparing a DVD release of the lecture. Among the special
features we're trying to prepare is a commentary track (commentary in
the truest sense!) for the lectures, which would include several
professors and hopefully Mr. Barth.
If anyone has any further information or questions about the Shirt of
Nessus, the Calvino lectures, or anything else related, I'd very much
appreciate some replies!