Annotating House of Leaves

MarginaliaTextual annotations have a long history in literary studies. They are in essence commentary on a text, sometimes offered as marginalia alongside the main text, other times as footnotes, and yet other times as entirely separate documents.

Annotations can serve many functions, depending upon their context. They can be exegetical, drawing out meanings and interpretations from a passage or even an individual word. They can be focused on a book’s history, noting variations that occur in different editions.  They can be generated from a reader’s own idiosyncratic response to a text—for example, quotations and passages from the text the reader wishes to collect and remember, and put in dialogue with one another.

House of Leaves is an ideal novel to annotate, considering that much of the text is itself an “annotation” of other texts. The novel is obsessed, in fact, with textual commentary. For this assignment you will pick a single page from House of Leaves and heavily annotate it. Your annotations should not be guided by an overarching argument. Rather, annotate the page in a kind of free association way, commenting upon words and passages in any way you are compelled to do so.

Your work for the assignment will consist of a photocopy of the page (or two-page spread) from House of Leaves you are annotating, with the bulk of your annotations directly on the page. The second component is a 1-page (single-spaced) collection of your annotations, plus any further commentary that would not fit on the novel’s pages, or which didn’t occur to you during the initial process of annotation.

The annotation is due in class on October 19 and is worth 10% of your final grade.

Palimpsest photograph courtesy of Danielle Koupf, Creative Commons Licensed