Places: Giles Goat-Boy

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1966

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fantasy

Time of work: A time like the 1960’s

Places DiscussedUniversity

University. Giles Goat-BoyThe world.

New Tammany College

New Tammany College. Institution whose West Campus is the cultural heart of the western part of the unnamed university, which George Giles enters as a naïve aspirant Grand Tutor. (The story told by the novel is, in essence, the spiritual autobiography of the Grand Tutor in question, whose teachings have been codified in a Revised New Syllabus which–somewhat belatedly, and by far-from-universal consent–has absorbed, modified and replaced the obsolete Enochist Curriculum.)

Tower Hall

Tower Hall. Core of the West Campus, situated at the opposite end of the Great Mall from the Main Gate. The College Senate and various other committees meet there, and it is the location of the Main Stacks. The basements beneath it are the primary locations of the enormous computer WESCAC. The computer provides the ruling principle of the West Campus; its calculations determine the ultimate success or failure of all the students, and its system of examination defines the social order of the entire university, with the support of the technologically superior defensive program EAT. Within WESCAC’s Belly, Giles–or, as it turns out, GILES–was conceived and gestated. It is also within the Belly of the computer that Giles and Anastasia Stoker finally consummate their sexual relationship, contriving a significant and potentially earth-shaking climax.


Amphitheater. Huge arena jointly managed by the Sub-Departments of Ancient Narrative and Theatrical Science, where The Tragedy of Taliped Decanus–whose exemplary text is reproduced in its entirety in the novel–is performed.

Military Science Cube

Military Science Cube. Largest building on campus after the stadium, in terms of volume, although it is not as tall as the clock tower of Tower Hall.


Turnstile. Apparatus about seven meters tall, adjacent to the Left Gate, at which athletes are subjected to Trial-by-Turnstile. Its mechanism is jammed by Giles’s wrapper and amulet before he proceeds through the Registration Room to the Assembly-Before-the-Grate, where he meets the chancellor.

Scapegoat Grate

Scapegoat Grate. Iron grid that dispenses assignments; it gives Giles a list of seven tasks “To Be Done at Once, in No Time,” thus commencing the active and seemingly impossible phase of his studies.


Infirmary. Location where Giles must fulfill the third of his seven assigned tasks. It is unclear at first whether he requires access to the main building or the Psychiatric Annex, and readers are free to wonder whether that particular question is ever provided with a satisfactory answer.

Main Detention

Main Detention. Giles’s place of confinement when his mission enters its most desperate phase, his Assignment having temporarily defeated him. Conveniently–and perhaps paradoxically, given that its occupants are serving time–there is no time there, so his sojourn encourages and eventually enables him to solve the remaining problems of his Assignment.


Hill. Location of the barn in the College Farms, an obscure rural backwater of New Tammany College, where Giles spent his childhood as Billy the Goat-Boy.

Siegfrieder College

Siegfrieder College. Institution from which the Bonifacists launched the attacks on neighboring quads that eventually embroiled the whole university in the Second Campus Riot. Siegfrieder was allied in the later stages of the Second Campus Riot with Amaterasu College, but following their surrender both colleges acknowledged the educational hegemony of WESCAC.

Nikolay College

Nikolay College. Principal institution promoting the ideals of Student-Unionism, systematized by WESCAC’s rival EASCAC. Although the two computers share a single power source on Founder’s Hill, their opposition, the Boundary Dispute, gives rise to the Quiet Riot. Settling the Boundary Dispute is the second of the seven key tasks contained in Giles’s Assignment, but not the easiest.

BibliographyHarris, Charles B. Passionate Virtuosity: The Fiction of John Barth. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1983. Sees the book as a search for unity, in which Barth speaks the unspeakable.Safer, Elaine B. The Contemporary American Comic Epic: The Novels of Barth, Pynchon, Gaddis, and Kesey. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988. Treats elements of the absurd and the parody of Emersonian ideas of education in the novel.Scholes, Robert. Fabulation and Metafiction. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1979. Contains a pioneering treatment of the novel. Sees the book as a combination of philosophy and myth.Tobin, Patricia. John Barth and the Anxiety of Continuance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992. Sees George Giles as poet-as-hero. Focuses on the Oedipus story as source.Walkiewicz, E. P. John Barth. Boston: Twayne, 1986. Treats the novel in terms of myth, satire, and parody and the idea of repetition within it.
Categories: Places