Student Research Projects

The Destabilized House: A Marginal Reading of House of Leaves

Student Kelly Brennan, ‘13
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department English
Course ENG 489: Senior Capstone


When one reads a novel, so often are one is pushed to look for the overall message or moral of the text. However, what if a text does not lend itself to be read in this way? Can it be possible that a text has no central message? After taking a look at Mark Danielewski’s novel House of Leaves, we can see that it is entirely possible. It seems most relevant to look at House of Leaves through scenes that push themselves out of the boundaries of the novel, rather than try to find scenes that lead to a central message. The novel bobs and weaves between essential and supplementary materials, such as footnotes, struck-through sections, and blue windows, blurring the lines of what is seen as essential and accessory. Because of this, reading the novel under the assumption that there is a stabilized center limits the reading experience. Through these items, one may come to find that it is more important to read outside of the margins, and jump into the darkness. By using deconstructive theory provided by Jacques Derrida, one may come to the conclusion that we must work with the absent text as well as the present text. By exploring both the absence and presence, we are able to come to the realization that House of Leaves is a labyrinth that deconstructs itself, already working to tear down the walls it creates. House of Leaves is an original text, one that is so hyperactive that it becomes more of an experience than just a simple read or a turn of a page.