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Here is my final paper for the "Fiction of Relationship" course with Arnold Weinstein of Brown University . My peers graded it 5 out of 5. What do you think of it?

The Both-Neither Paradox of Story and Relationship

An aspect of Arnold Weinstein's literature course "Fiction of Relationship" is a reflection on the epistemological roles of story and connection in our lives and in our literature. As a basic issue of epistemology, I began the course assuming that relationship is the fundamental unit of knowledge and that story is merely the "window dressing" of representation. This course has led me to conclude that the fiction of relationship is the fundamental both-neither paradox at the heart of understanding.
 
I see now that one cannot discuss a priori relationship without giving an ab initio story. In other words, a relationship necessarily becomes known only through storytelling to oneself or others (in thought, discussion or writing). So the basic mathematical relation aRb meaning a is related to b by the relation R is really a story condensed into mathematical form. Moreover, a story will necessarily describe inter-relationships among its subjects at the sentence level as well as in its paragraphs, chapters, and wholes at a macro level. Through the work of Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, and Jorge Luis Borges, this essay will explore the fundamental epistemological paradox at the heart of experience: the fiction of relationship.
 
Herman Melville's "Bartleby The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" begins with a description of the characters and their traits which provides a view of the relationships among the office staff including the way their boss thinks of their individual strengths and weaknesses. The reader imagines "What was the office like?" and "How do its people relate to each other?". In our minds we delve into the relationships of the characters and their situation to understand what's happening. At first the story seems to be units of relationship to understand. Eventually, we also recognize that the story imposes structure which its relationships are subject to. Story and relationship seem to be complementary.
 
The idea of both-neither is that two perspectives or aspects both share elements of commonality (the both) and qualities of distinction or difference (the neither). The reader thinks about a scene with its characters and unfolding drama: we identify the relationships in the story. For example, we imagine the impact when Bartleby first tells the narrator-boss "I would prefer not to" (Melville 411). In addition, we can wonder how the author or our narrator colors the story to hide salient details or overemphasize others: we identify the story connecting a set of relationships. Relationship and story have dual roles to play, so they are distinct.
 
Another way in which relationship and story can be seen to be both-neither aspects of knowledge is with abstraction. We can abstract the relationships in a story and imagine them in new situations or infecting new characters. So we imagine what-ifs and pose different characters and relationships in new scenes presented with new problems. For example, we can imagine Bartleby with Christ or Hitler inflicting his remarkable preference. On the other hand, we can consider the story as abstracted from its particular relationships. So we consider the novella Bartleby as a story of business, of the office, of nihilism, of self-awareness, of defiance, of contagion, of the dispossessed, of a lifeline connecting working life with living (Weinstein, Lecture 4). So both relationship and story can be abstracted but the results are distinct.
 
It is the very paradoxical qualities of this both-neither interaction between story and relationship that leads to these multiple interpretations of Bartleby (and of literature and life itself). Paradox may be a wellspring for creativity providing the wherewithal for new interpretations and newly re-mixed relationships.
 
In Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighthouse", her stream of consciousness style highlights the relationships so the story appears to tell only what happened. For example, the scene where Mrs. Ramsay reassures Mr. Ramsay of "her capacity to surround and protect" (Woolf, 38) and thereby satisfy his demand for sympathy. The text identifies the sensations, communications, and thoughts of the characters in the scene upon first reading and we tend to miss the storytelling as we focus on the inter-relationships between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay and their son James. Upon reflection, we realize that it is precisely the story that defines and creates these relationships out of the imagination of the reader. Again, we find a creative paradox mediating story and relationship.
 
When Woolf describes the exchange between Mr. Banks and Lily Briscoe discussing her art, she concludes "This man had shared with her something profoundly intimate" (Woolf, 53). This reference makes us re-focus on the story. What was the intimate connection? We re-read and find it was an interchange, a discussion about Lily's art. Sharing and discussing something of interest creates intimacy. The story of each party in the interchange is the unit of relationship. Relationship in this case is comprised of story itself. Only upon reflection do we see that this presentation of relationship is in fact also a story, a story about the intimacy. Story is both the unit of exchange in the relationship and the creative force encompassing that relationship. We then see intimacy as the both-neither integral of story and connection.
 
In Woolf's philosophical text "a wedge-shaped core of darkness" (Woolf, 63) and "praising the light" (Woolf, 64) constitute a model of two contrasting creative forces. Like all models, this is a story framing and detailing qualities, in this case of darkness and light. Woolf identifies darkness with the experiences of recharging ("this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures" (Woolf, 62) and limitlessness among others. Light is identified with "purifying out of existence" (Woolf, 63) and "directing them" (Woolf, 126) among others. The novel uses this model to tell its story yet it is the relationships themselves that give it substance. Determining the primacy of the model or its relationships is impossible as each defines the other.
 
In Jorge Luis Borges' short story "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", the nations of Tlön "are congenitally idealist" (Borges, 23). There are no concrete manifestations: everything is abstraction. Their language has no nouns but verbs in the southern hemisphere and adjectives in the northern. This takes the inherent paradox of story and connection and mind-bendingly twists it with the fabric of story itself: language. I wondered is it really possible to reformulate these atoms of language? If so, how would the relationships described by the story change? Borges takes the both-neither paradox of story and relationship to almost unfathomable depths.
 
In "Funes, The Memorious" the eponymous character is "almost incapable of general, platonic ideas" (Borges, 114). Funes can see "all the shoots, clusters, and grapes of the vine" (Borges, 112) when we see only a glass of wine. He sees the innumerable instances of the physical world through all instances of time as separate and distinct perceptions. Idealist Tlön and anti-idealist Funes take the both-neither paradox in opposite directions and challenge our thinking about the profound nature of the fiction of relationship.
 
The more deeply we examine fiction or the experiences in our lives or even in the experiments of science, the more we realize that story and connection mutually define each other. This is the heart of knowledge: the great creative both-neither paradox of story and relationship: the fiction of relationship.

Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse. Eudora Welty, foreword. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 1981.
 
Herman Melville, "Barleby The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street". "Short Stories for Study: An Anthology", Raymond W. Short and Richard B. Sewell, Third Edition, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1941, 1950, 1956.
 
Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones. Andrew Kerrigan, ed. New York: Grove Press, 1956, 1962.
 
CJ Fearnley, "The Creative Vision of Light and Darkness in To The Lighthouse", https://class.coursera.org/relationship-001/forum/thread?thread_id=1291#post-9850 accessed 24 Aug 2013
 
Arnold Weinstein, Course Videos on Melville, 2013.
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