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Metaleptic Transgression and Traumatic Experience: The "empty rooms, long hallways, and dead ends" of House of Leaves


  • David Boothroyd

Summary, in English

Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves is a stunningly complex work, blending elements of the traditional haunted house tale, postmodernism, and film analysis with innovative approaches to textuality and to the format of the novel. This thesis explores House of Leaves with regard to many of these elements, presenting a reading which unifies its various modes of discourse by relating them back to the labyrinth at its centre. Using Genette's concepts of diegetic level and metalepsis, it is argued that the narrative structure of House of Leaves echoes the qualities of the labyrinth (infinite space, shifting dimensions, emptiness), in that the heterarchical natures of both labyrinth and text confront the reader with instances of logical paradox. This violation of physical spaces and narratological conventions, moreover, is reflected in the complexity of the novel with regard to narrative unreliability, textual manipulation, and the dismantling of the concepts of authorship and the sacred text. Finally, it is argued that the labyrinth and its effects on the narrative represent traumatic experience, that the absence at its centre and the violations of physical laws, narrative coherence, and semantic meaning are related to the ontological uncertainty which suffering or grief engenders.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • narratology
  • authorship
  • narrative space
  • postmodernism
  • absence
  • heterarchy
  • trauma
  • metalepsis
  • House of Leaves
  • Danielewski


  • Ellen Turner