For my paper, I would like to explore Anne Carson’s Nox under the lenses of Lev Manovich’s “The Database” and Roland Barthes’s “The Death of the Author.” I would like to probe the topic of absence versus presence in the novel and how that influences its role as a literary database. While the novel is about the death of Carson’s brother, Michael, his absence in her life is overcompensated by his presence in her novel. Consequently, his presence in the novel eclipses hers. Barthes notes in his article, “Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place here this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author.” Is the presentation of this book to be construed as a DIY spectacle or to assist Carson in transitioning from her grieving period? Nox becomes the paradigm of Barthes’s statement through Carson’s juxtaposition of various memories, interactions, and experiences of Michael. Some other questions I would like to consider: In a novel about her brother, how does Carson maintain a sense of identity/voice? Is the accordion codex employed for Carson’s benefit, Michael’s benefit, or the reader’s benefit? Would the execution of this poignant novel be as successful if it was presented in a more linear and conventionally crafted codex?
Carson treats lamenting as it should be, as a scrapbook. The level of poignancy this topic holds transcends the boundaries of a linear narrative. Because the reader is exposed to Carson’s grieving period, the reader is forced to rifle through a box interspersed connections (e.g. redundancy, letters, photos, etc.) and create his or her own course. As Manovich’s article suggests, “The world appears to us as an end less and unstructured collection of images, texts, and other data records, it is only appropriate that we will be moved to model it as a database.” Since the novel is presented as an elegy for the brother, his overarching presence allows Carson to freely place his artifacts into the database of this book. I would essentially like to explore how Carson’s authorship dictated the presentation of her novel.