Building on Details

Building on Details (of Your Choice)

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Although “The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales” is not the most obscure narrative that we’ve encountered this semester (I’m looking at you “Up Among the Eagles”), it certainly poses interpretive challenges. Thankfully, the approach used in this series, as has previously been indicated, is one well-suited to particularly confusing works since it develops an understanding of the meaning of a text from the ground up by drawing inferences from concrete narrative or textual evidence. In addition, Fei’s story is a fortuitous one to use for the last of our Building on Details forums because the writing is so rich that a number of previous approaches can be employed. That is, in your post you may select a puzzling detail, a funny detail, or a detail about a character. You could probably also find at least one (slightly) dreadful detail. You are even welcome to find a contrastive detail that differentiates Fei’s robot from those of Čapek. 

Forum Instructions

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In its proliferation of apparent symbols and odd characters, “The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales” provides plenty of fodder for our discussion. You might also focus on one of mini-narratives, within the short story, that almost appear to be parables but for their opacity. That is, many of these mini-narratives feel as though they are vehicles for an idea that is never made clear. Of course, one could say this of the story as a whole except that it does seem to supply a doctrine. In effect, the robot protagonist supplies two,

1. “I believe tall tales please both the teller and the listener. This is partly because the sharp glare of the truth can injure mortal senses and strike fear into the hearts of the common people. It’s thus necessary to disguise the truth in the form of ridiculous stories so that they may then seep into fragile and suspicious nerves. Even if these dull minds cannot extract the beneficial truth hidden therein, at least the blunted instrument would not injure them too much . . . “

2. “I think tall tales give pleasure simply from the imagination’s leap into the infinite. It’s no different from humanity’s desire to fly. The pleasure alone is reason enough; no other explanation is needed.”

The robot gives these explanations in response to the old, honest king with which the story opened who has asked for his “understanding of the art of bullshit.” Although it is significant that the king expresses some dissatisfaction with the first answer and fully affirms the second, they are both interesting ideas that probably have some relevance to what Fei is up to in his own story. With this in mind, please choose a concrete narrative or textual detail (or two) that is puzzling, funny, dreadful, about a character, or that you can use to contrast Fei’s robot to those of R. U. R. and relate it to one of these theories of “the art of bullshit.”

Please Order Post in the Following Way:

1. Situate your example (i.e. supply a brief description of the narrative and/or textual context from which you are drawing it). (1-2 sentences.)

2. Convey your example (i.e. quote what is and only what is relevant or provide a concrete and specific description of your example); provide an in-text MLA citation for it.

3. Explain what’s puzzling, funny, or dread-inducing about the example or what it reveals about a character or the idea of the robot within Fei’s story. (1-3 sentences)

4. Briefly, relate your preceding analysis to either theory 1 or theory 2 about “the art of bullshit.” (1-2 sentences)

Additional Instructions

· Length: Your post should be at minimum 150 words.

· Format: You will post your comment directly in the appropriate discussion forum, so use the default formatting (font type, etc.) for the discussion board.

· Citations: Use

 MLA in-text citations (Links to an external site.)

 for textual evidence that refers to the page numbers in the assigned editions of the standalone texts or the PDF/Word documents posted to Canvas. If you cite a different edition or another source, include an MLA Works Cited at the end of your post.

· You do not have to relate this post to any preceding ones in this forum. In fact, you will not be able to see your classmates’ posts until you’ve posted your own. But since your post will reveal everyone else’s, if you make some sort of mistake initially and have to repost, you are then responsible for reading the entire thread and identifying a unique example that has not been previously mentioned in the discussion. 

· Write with clarity (clear sentences and clear and distinct ideas).

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