Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time researching the book House of Leaves. Needless to say there is an amazing wealth of analytical viewpoints available for one to make up their own mind about what’s really going on in the story. I spent some time on the MZD forums and found some fascinating interpretations of major characters or events, but I still felt as though there was something missing, something slipping between my fingers that perhaps others hadn’t caught. I was compelled to continue.
Considering that I’m majoring in English & Digital Humanities, it’s somewhat ironic that defining the field is such a chore. I could tell you about all of the advancements that are being made between text and networks, or how archival tools are being used to categorize and database literary information for easier access, but in truth these are not very small slivers of a greater whole.
Part of being a digital humanist means being a collaborator, and there are a plethora of facilitating platforms like GoogleDocs and Storify to link and co-author content. But sometimes deconstruction applies too, as Mark Sample proposes “what is broken and twisted is also beautiful, and a bearer of knowledge. The Deformed Humanities is an origami crane — a piece of paper contorted into an object of startling insight and beauty.” In this vein, here’s an Emily Dickinson poem that’s been deconstructed and rearranged, words linked by tangential pathways that make the poem malleable. You can read it however you choose, beginning wherever you want.
Comment below with the best phrases you find.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” is a peculiar addition to the lexicon of prose dealing with issues of faith. Here the typically center stage allegories and heavy-handed metaphors are buried in obscurity, and remain a conundrum to the reader long after finishing the story. Rather than spelling everything out for the reader, Marquez mirrors in his writing the kind of ambiguity prominent in most belief systems. The story portrays the paradoxes and fickleness of faith through its characters’ interactions with the Old Man, while forcing the reader to speculate on the dichotomy of cruelty and compassion.
Tim O’Brien’s classic Vietnam short story is about much more than the technical listings of standard issue war gear. The things these men carry are only underscored by the weight of ammunition, rations, weapons, and canteens—“They carried the sky” (364). I love this piece for its ability to combine the gritty realities of war with the inner turmoil that is almost never talked about after the fighting stops. The “Thousand Yard Stare”, or countless other names, will always be only an enigma to most of us civilians.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is an exemplary exploration of faith and the dichotomy of compassion/cruelty. The titular “angel” is viewed in opposition to more historically consistent versions of angels, and in bringing him “down to earth” Marquez lets the reader view something supernatural through the lens of everyday ordinariness. The key to understanding this story is presented through the pitiful girl who has been transformed into a spider for disobeying her parents and sneaking out to a dance. The spider-girl requires little more than pity to earn the spectators’ faith in her story, while the old man is persistently doubted, tormented, and seen as a repulsive abomination.