Chaucer's Influence on Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor
In order to appreciate the richness of the historical tapestry which John Barth has woven in his satire of provincial Maryland, critics have examined a number of possible sources of influence. Jac Tharpe has noted influences as diverse as Odysseus, Plato, "rationalistic Cartesians," Candide, Pilgrim's Progress, and Nietzsche's Zarathustra.1 Other critics have concentrated specifically on Barth's parodic re-creation of the forms of the eighteenth-century novel.2 While some readers, like Earl Rovit, argue that The Sot-Weed Factor is merely "a conjuror's trick of deception" and a pointless "joke upon the reader,"3 Barth's parody does, in fact, address serious issues like the validity of faith or reason as a means to cope with the world of America. Such a claim can be demonstrated by examining Barth's significant borrowing from a medieval source.
Winston, Robert P. "Chaucer's Influence on Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor." American Literature 56, no. 4 (1984): 584-90.