An Empty Labyrinth: Nihilism and the Creation of Fear in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emily Gabriel (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site:
Anne Jansen

Abstract: In his debut novel, House of Leaves (2000, Mark Danielewski created a unique work of art, incorporating aspects of film and literary criticism as well as visual art into an already irregular novel. The complex nature of the novel allows it to be categorized as a work of ergodic literature: one which requires non-trivial effort on the reader’s behalf. However, House of Leaves has a powerfully frightening effect on the reader and in this paper, the author considers House of Leaves as a work of horror, based on the convictions that it incites fear in the reader and that this fear is established mainly by unknown forces. The paper looks at the effect of horror and the concept of nihilism in the context of the novel, and concludes that, faced with a nihilistic text such as House of Leaves, the reader’s experience is a unique one: he or she must choose how to react to the fear of nothingness and meaninglessness that is presented.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Mark Danielewski, horror novels, nihilism

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