Sunday, November 23, 2014

Final Project Proposal

I plan to examine the overlap of reality and illusion for both the readers and the characters of House of Leaves and Jimmy Corrigan. Both books are visually created in a way that reflects the characters and ideas that are used within (i.e the maze of words and footnotes in House of Leaves and the blurred lines between fantasy/dream and reality within Jimmy Corrigan). This relates not only to the question of how to define what reality is for each individual within their own mind but looks at the literary/visual techniques of both authors as they used their characters to shape their work. Contradiction and confusion are created in both novels and the narrators create a world of illusion that cannot necessarily be trusted. Jimmy’s world creates a novel often interrupted by his own imagination with occasional cut-outs that show that his fantasy even goes beyond the constraints of his reality within the form of a book. House of Leaves clearly pits the reality of its characters against a force that causes them to question physical limits and, for Johnny (and possibly Zampano) leaves them in a state of being at war with reality as they hide from the world and obsess over the world of The Navidson Record. The interpretations for House of Leaves would expand on the ideas presented in my last essay.
I also want to cross into some aspect of the psychological idea of reality and its subjectivity. One article explores the topic of shared realities vs private realities, which can be related to the isolation that characters experience in both books. Exploring why this isolation exists and how it connects with the structure of the novel is meaningful as this topic would look at a theme carried across both novels that sheds light on how the characters within think and connect.

Aguirre, Manuel. The Closed Space: Horror Literature and Western Symbolism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990. Print.
                This book looks at the way dark and closed-off spaces are incorporated into horror, as they are in House of Leaves. I will specifically use what it has to say about labyrinths and the idea that once imprisoned, the choice is escape or adapt. The obsession many characters show with the prison of the house shows their adaptation to and attempt to incorporate the impossibility of this house and its horror within their reality.

Ball, David M., and Kuhlman, Martha B., eds. Comics of Chris Ware. Jackson, MS, USA: University Press of Mississippi, 2010. Print.
                This source looks at Chris Ware’s comic technique, and supports my argument as I show that Jimmy Corrigan blurs the clear lines between fantasy and reality to show what goes on in Jimmy’s mind. Ware’s technique is somewhere between illusionism and realism, thus creating a world where we cannot rely on the narrator to distinguish between the two.

Bredehoft, Thomas A. "Comics Architecture, Multidimensionality, and Time: Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth." MFS Modern Fiction Studies 52.4 (2007; 2006): 869-90.
                Here my argument is supported by the idea that the architecture of Ware’s book reflects the story and the characters within it. There is some specific analysis of the cut-outs and how they create interaction with the reader and bring the story beyond the constraints of its 2-D form.

Cassimatis, Emmanuel G. "Reality." Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis 28.4 (2000): 717.
                I can use this source to understand the nature of reality within a human mind and its ability to isolate or connect people. The psychology of the characters in both books can be examined by looking at how their own mind has changed their physical world, connecting to the way their world can change the physical structure of the book.

Danilewski, Mark Z. “House of Leaves.” New York: Pantheon Books, 2000. Print.
                Needed in order to cite sections or passages of the book to support claims.

Hagood, Caroline. “Exploring the Architecture of Narrative in House of Leaves.” Pennsylvania Literary Journal (4:1) Spring 2012, 87-97,140.
                This source supports the argument that the structure of the book reflects the ability for the story to transcend its own boundaries. The discussion of how different characters can be connected to one another, even where the connection is based on a fictional world, shows how illusion can impact many lives and the collective psychological being of those lives. Zampano and Johnny are connected purely by a fictional story, but the consequences of this fiction create a real connection between the two as Johnny becomes more and more immersed in Zampano’s book and life.

Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000. Print.
                Needed in order to cite sections or passages of the book to support claims.
Because this topic covers a range of smaller topics and ideas as well as the analysis of two books we read, I plan to keep the discussion of the books mostly separated from one another, merging the ideas from each at the end of each section.
The first section will focus on how the blurred lines between reality and illusion influence character’s actions within the novels. Characters in House of Leaves make a choice to stay immersed in fantasy rather than reality in all levels of the novel, both isolating them and connecting them to one another. The immersion into fantasy creates an isolation for Jimmy Corrigan and he loses the ability to connect to his family due to his distancing from reality.

The second will look at the degree to which characters’ immersion into illusion influences reality. Their narratives are not contained to fantasy as the book is often physically shaped by the fantasy they live in. Here I will look more at the visual aspects of the books than the psychological reality of the characters, but will tie them together by making it clear that one aspect influences another, and that by visually creating the world of fantasy the characters live in, the authors have created a sort of reality. 


  1. Great proposal. And pretty good comparison between the novels. You have a really solid bibliography to pull evidence for your argument from. So, I get that you are talking about illusion and the blurring between illusion and reality. You touch on the psychological aspect of subjectivity (the isolation and the visual aspects being defined by their feelings), and so are you going to talk in depth about the themes of mental illness in the books as well as the general illusionary aspects?

  2. I read a book the last couple days called "Nation of Steel," which is basically a history of the American steel industry from 1865-1925. One chapter in it, though, is really international in focus - it's about the development of the armor industry (for battleships), and the parallel way it developed across nations. France, Germany, the U.S., and Great Britain were all theoretically competing to build the best battleships, which meant everyone tried to build the best armor - but the theoretically "objective" business of testing battleship armor was so heavily influenced by political and careerist considerations that the results of the tests were basically determined in advance, with the testing process being only marginally better than a farce.

    What's this have to do with your essay? It's not just in fiction that subjectivity creates reality. Battleships were built the same way - people had more or less theoretical ideas about the best way of building armor, then those ideas acquired so much political and economic impetus that they *had* to be right.

    So I have two observations. First, your ideas and your research look great - I don't have an criticisms to make as such. But I do have a question - what are you doing with your ideas about subjectivity here? Are you trying to theorize how subjectivity works when words & images are combined in certain ways? Do you have some ideas about how subjectivity works in our own historical moment, to which Danielewski and Ware belong? Your approach, as usual, is very sound - but I'll be looking for what you learn based on the approach, and what argument emerges from that approach.