In Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man, Marcuse states that “No concept can be valid which defines its object by properties and functions that do not belong to the object…”(Marcuse, 218). When applied to the house in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, the more Zampano and his sources try to define aspects of the novel in various terms, the more convoluted and desperate his explanations become, revealing the inherently invalid nature of his arguments.
Throughout Chapter 11, Zampano tries to apply the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau to Will and Tom Navidson. He cites a claim questioning whether Navidson is a “…hunter like Esau, actively shooting with his camera?” and whether or not Tom’s calmness is representative of Jacob (Danielewski, 247). Danielewski seems to be criticizing the nature of applying Biblical comparisons to every aspect of literature, or as TvTropes.org calls this standardized interpretation, “Everyone is Jesus in Purgatory.” The comparison is taken to its absolute extreme when Zampano compares Esau and Jacob’s struggle to the Navidson brothers, but realizes that “Will and Tom never indulged in such a violent struggle”(250).
Given that Zampano threw away virtually the entire chapter, it is considerably likely that after he acknowledged the Biblical analogy was ridiculous, he tore it up and threw it away like Denise Neiman who worked on the text claims. He tried to analyze the Navidsons in terms of a state of being that was not representative of who they were, and thus in his mind, the chapter itself and all of his intensive scholarly analysis in the earlier sections of the novel were for naught. At the same time, he may have also recognized that Footnote 242 was wrong as Johnny and the editor note, making him even more likely to have thrown out the chapter in its entirety, much like he scribbled out the material on the Minotaur in earlier sections.
Another section in the novel in which Danielewski highlights the ridiculousness of highlighting in terms of nonexistent subtext is in Footnote 329, in which Camille Paglia describes the house in terms of gender. Not only does she claim that the house only being entered by men is significant (despite Karen being essentially the only important female in the story), but Zampano extends the analysis to Freud, citing a critic who writes “The house as vagina: The adolescent boy’s primary identification lies with the mother…Navidson explores that loss, that which he first identifies with: the vagina, the womb, the mother”(358).
Once again, in the process of trying to define an object in inapplicable terms, Danielewski highlights the complete absurdity of Zampano’s analysis. He somehow manages to find two that view the house as feminine, including one who claims that it is in some way representative of an adolescent boy being displaced because “he has a penis; [his mother] doesn’t”(358). The absurdity is particularly highlighted by the heavily formal language that Danielewski’s cited critics use, pointing out that trying to define the house in ridiculous terms is inherently pointless and convoluted.
I have previously argued that House of Leaves is a satire of academic criticism, and with my additional reading, I have become more cemented in this conclusion. And this satire supports the Marcusian view that there are incorrect ways to view works, many of which are highlighted in various points in the novel.