Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Labyrinth

On page 112, Zampano discusses the question of structure and centrality.  He uses some comments from Jacques Derrida, a famous French philosopher during the 1900’s, in which he attempts to describe meanings of “play”, “origins”, and “ends” in relation to the Navidson House.  These remarks concerning structure are in relation to the previous passage when Holloway, Jed and Wax make their way further down the stairway and begin to question the ominous place that engulfs them. “Is it merely an aberration of physics? A topiary labyrinth on a much grandeur scale?” That is where the comments from Jacques Derrida become relevant in trying to understand structure and centrality.

The first paragraph (translated to the best of Jonny’s ability) of Derrida’s passage from L’ecriture et la difference defines the function of a center. He says the most important function of a center is to limit the “play” of the structure by orienting, balancing and organizing a structure. Once the structure is oriented, with the help of the center, only then can the “play” or the activities inside the structure occur. Therefore, he ends this confusing paragraph by stating his main point: without a center, a structure is illogical.

He then defends this in the next paragraph by explaining how one could, paradoxically say that the center is within and outside the structure. Because if this center is not the center of totality and only a certain structure then totality has is own center. Concluding with the statement “the center is not the center” or the center of a structure is not THE center of totality, presenting the question how can it be considered a center at all?

These arguments stem from one of Derrida’s early ideas of structural approaches to understanding individual and collective life. He argues that a structure must have a genesis, and if the origin is the point of genesis, shouldn’t it already be structured, in order to be the genesis of something? This is a very confusing topic, however, it logically makes sense and it relates to House of Leaves.  Each one of these topics Derrida described relates to the labyrinth in The Navidson Records. Not only is the existence of the labyrinth an unexplainable phenomenon but the contents inside the hallways, rooms and the massive staircase. There is certainly no center to this growing structure and it is incomprehensible to imagine how vast it truly is.

The reason for the inclusion of Jacques Derrida’s philosophy is simple, to present a confusing yet logical explanation of ‘centers’, ‘origins’ and ‘play’ in order to describe the anomaly of the Navidson house.  

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Derrida is a little more contemporary than you're making him out to be.

That's more or less an aside, though. The central fact and central difficulty of this (unrevised) paper is that you are mostly just repeating material from the text: you're citing some difficult and complicated material, then paraphrasing the explanations of it which are offered within the book. Your own interpretation, which is both brief and limited, is just tacked onto the end, really - you're not really working with the text, but rehearsing it in this paper.