House of Leaves as Post Print Fiction

In my paper I’m going to discuss how Danielewski’s transformation of the role of the reader contributes to the genre of “post-print” fiction. The sources I’m consulting are Hansen’s The Digital Topography of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves,” Hayles’ “Saving the Subject:Remediation in House of Leaves,” Pressman’s “House of Leaves: reading the networked novel,” and, to a certain degree, Hamilton’s “The a-mazing house: the labyrinth as theme and form in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.” The sources have all been very useful since they discuss a lot of the varying arguments as to why House of Leaves can be considered “post-print.” For example, the idea behind House of Leaves is that a house can not contain itself, which is very similar to the idea that a book can not contain itself. In order for the reader to absorb the entire story, he/she must go beyond the physical book and explore other forms of media such as music and the internet. It is only when the reader learns to change their reading habits from simply extracting information from the tangible source of the book, to exploring other, less tangible, but just as informative sources that the reader is rewarded with a better understanding of the narrative. In this way, the role of the reader must change in order to read post-print fiction.

Another way House of Leaves calls attention to the changing role of the reader is through its discussion of “the uncanny ” or “unheimlich.” The definition that is presented in the story is something familiar being made unfamiliar. There are many examples of this within the story such as the house (which is supposed to be the very essence of familiarity) being made into an unfamiliar place. The text, itself, is also “uncanny” in this sense because the story is bound in a codex book (a very familiar form), but integrates innovative and unfamiliar typography and other forms of media into the story that make the role of the reader unfamiliar. In her essay, Hamilton notes that House of Leaves has “an unheimlich quality” and that the “bizarre and unfamiliar typography of the book…makes the act of reading the novel an unfamiliar experience.”(6)

At the same time, House of Leaves must restore and/or reference familiar conventions of print novels, because the genre isn’t “anti-print”, its “post-print.” The new genre builds off of what the old has created. House of Leaves couldn’t solely exist as a work of electronic literature just as little as it could exist solely as a work of conventional print literature.