Two Kings in Their Labyrinths : Mark Z. Danielewski, Jorge Luis Borges and the (In)Finitude of House of Leaves
Charlton, Kit Thomas
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A key question that lay at the core of my SIP research was “what/who is an author?” This is an idea that has been the subject of a great deal of critical analysis. Michel Foucault famously took on this question in a 1969 lecture, expanding on Roland Barthes’s deconstruction of the idea of the author two years previously. He asked questions that pushed at the edges of what we generally consider authorship; for example, if an editor wishes to compile the complete writings of Friedrich Nietzsche into a single volume, where are the boundaries of his “writings”? Does this include his notes as well as all of his published books? Should his journals and correspondences be compiled? His laundry bill? Was there a point in his life at which he became an “author” and therefore his writing became “authored works”? I chose not to include Foucault’s piece in my SIP, but this method of inquiry stuck around in my mind. Could a fictional character be an author of the text they are in? In House of Leaves, is it possible to analyze the writings of Johnny and Zampanò somehow independently of the nonfictional author Mark Z. Danielewski? What does it mean when an author enters into their own text via a hidden and obscure code, as Danielewski does? As I followed these lines of inquiry, it became evident that authorship is a negotiable concept; what an author is and is not in relation to the text that bears their name is far from straightforward. Barthes’s “The Death of the Author” formed the backbone of my critical analysis on this point—his central argument that an author is created simultaneously with their text provided a framework with the kind of flexibility that an analysis of a text as complicated as House of Leaves demanded.