When reviews came in of his Sot-Weed Factor (which I highly recommend) John Barth read how his hero’s adventures seemed to follow the archetypal patterns described by Joseph Campbell and Lord Raglan. Intrigued, Barth studied up, then set out to satirize the Hero (think Moses, Oedipus, Davy Crockett).
The result, insanely ambitious, fiendishly clever, intimidatingly erudite, and thoroughly indecent, is Giles Goat-Boy. Giles, fathered on a virgin by a computer, raised as a goat, sets off to save the world, which Barth posits as a university. Hence, all are students, destined to flunk or graduate.
Why has this not found its way into the canon? It’s pretty schematic. The characters aren’t people so much as representations of philosophical stances and the exploration of those stances can get pretty long. Also, the book’s university bears a strong resemblance to the Cold War mid-1960′s of the real world, and some of these references have grown obscure
Why bother then? Some of us find this really funny. Barth is also, for my money, the premiere prose stylist of the last century, his style instantly recognizable. It was fun to revisit, and I feel, as one character expostulates, "Gratituditynesshoodshipcy".