Black box and blue screen: Readerly entrapment and projection in Pale Fire and House of Leaves.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In many respects Vladimir Nabokov's 1962 novel Pale Fire and Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, first published in 2000, are strikingly similar texts. Indeed, Danielewski's novel can profitably be read as a contemporary re-working of Nabokov's archetypal metafictional model. However, where Danielewski constructs his text as an open-work or 'blue screen' onto which the reader is invited to attach any meaning that they see fit, Nabokov quite explicitly constructs his novel as an infernal 'black box' designed to confuse and entrap the reader and enforce his control over the text and its meaning. Nabokov's novel is fundamentally author-directed, while Danielewski's novel is expressly reader-oriented. Reading Pale Fire through the lens of House of Leaves allows for a radical renegotiation of the Nabokovian text. Danielewski's novel, I argue, allows us to recognize the points of instability latent in the unique structure ofNabokov's novel, and thus open up the text beyond Nabokov's attempted closure and thereby pave the way for new, innovative and creative readings.