Student Research Projects


Student Melissa Snyder
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department English
Course Eng 489


In my research project I examined the structure of space in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. This novel spirals to new depths, adding multiple layers of fear to the traditional ghost story. Danielewski’s writing style quickly constructs a complicated labyrinth that entraps the reader in the characters’ narratives. Throughout the novel, words are crossed out, the font changes, and the page orientation is varied; this style of writing creates magnificent rooms and claustrophobic halls for the reader’s imagination to envision. It is not the simple label of “ghost story” that evokes the fear from the reader. Based on my research, I formed the theory that it is Danielewski’s ability to build an incongruent space in the reader’s imagination that truly gives the audience of House of Leaves chills. House of Leaves is not a novel based on new ideas and scare tactics, but rather a twisted reflection of classic theorist Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Space. Close reading of Bachelard’s theories, in The Poetics of Space, reveals knowledge on how Danielewski is able to use words to spin the reader’s imagination. However, it is not just the reader’s imagination that Bachelard’s theories trap, but Danielewski also entraps his characters’ imaginations and dreams in spaces. My research shows that it is necessary to acknowledge the ideas of Gaston Bachelard to more fully understand how House of Leaves is not the simple structure of the traditional ghost story, but rather an elaborate manuscript with an ever-transforming blueprint.