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Jessica Pressman

Graduate Student, English Dept., UCLA

Jessica Pressman

Jessica Pressman is a doctoral candidate in English at UCLA. She is writing a dissertation titled Digital Modernism: Making it New in New Media, which examines a prominent strategy in innovative online electronic literature: the “remediation” of literary modernism. She worked for the Electronic Literature Organization from 2002-2004, facilitating the “State of the Arts Symposium” and “Hyper_Text,” a yearlong reading series in electronic literature at the Hammer Museum.

Links: Home Page

Research Sample: Excerpt from “House of Leaves: Reading the Networked Novel” forthcoming in Studies in American Fiction in 2006.

Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000) is a novel that is not just a book. The seven-hundred-nine page codex embraces and exploits the pleasures of print in typographical play and innovative page design; its substantial print body contains an extensive hypertextual navigation system connecting multiple narratives and reading paths. The reader hopscotches across pages and points of view, layers of footnotes and different fonts, decoding a novel that relishes a print fetish while revealing how literature and its readers encounter and evolve in relation to digital media. For the book it reaches beyond its bindings to a network of multimedia instantiations that collectively and collaboratively produce its multilayered narrative. House of Leaves presents a paradox: it is a print novel for the digital age, a book that privileges print while plugging into the digital network. House of Leaves is acutely aware of its location within the contemporary digital “discourse network,” the systems Friedrich Kittler identifies as “the network[s] of technologies and institutions that allow a given culture to select, store, and produce relevant data” (Discourse Networks 369). House of Leaves aestheticizes this concept: it is a networked novel that connects up with the contemporary “discourse network” of the Internet in order to illuminate the state of the print novel within it.

The book House of Leaves is the central one in a network of multimedia, multi-authored forms that collectively comprise its narrative: the House of Leaves website , The Whalestoe Letters (an accompanying book by Danielewski containing a section from the novel’s Appendix), and the musical album Haunted by the author’s sister, the recording artist Poe. The novel was published to exist in relation to these entities, all of which were published in 2000. House of Leaves participates in a feedback loop with these works: the multimedia entities spring from, feed off, and filter back into the novel through references and clues that illuminate its narrative. Thus, thorough readings of House of Leaves cannot be contained to the bound book but must follow the narrative content and formal structure out into the digital network which it imitates and with which it interacts. On her website, Poe articulates the relationship between her album and her brother’s novel: “‘House of Leaves’ is one thing. ‘Haunted’ is another. Together they are something quite different.” It is this third “thing” that interests me: the connections across and between media forms that forge a networked aesthetic, foster new reading strategies, and foreground the importance of House of Leaves as a print novel for a digital age.

Contributions to Transliteracies Project:
“The Readies” (Research Report)
Media Pamphlet Series (Research Report)
electronic book review (Research Report)
Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular (Research Report)
Poems That Go (Research Report)

  jpressman, 01.12.06

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