What’s Lost in Remediation?

What’s lost in Remediation

As a film fanatic, it’s hard to get past the work of remediation that is being played with in House of Leaves (“remediation,” used here as a film term to describe movement through various mediums). Remediation as an idea is explored in several ways, and it works, awesomely, on several layers in this novel. Obviously, there is plot and the way that Zampano’s story is retold by Johnny Truant. There is Zampano’s story itself, the account of “The Navidson Record,” displayed as a film critique. And then there is House of Leaves itself and its own movement from a digital format to the dense, paperback version we are reading for this class. The effects of remediation are ALL over this novel and they are further highlighted by the ways that we approach the story.

“The Navidson Record,” from page three on, of House of Leaves, is described to us as a critique of the film. The writer is clearly a film expert and we are shown the film through his descriptions and close, shot by shot, analysis. Stylistically, this is an uncommon approach to a fictional novel and is our first layer of window for which to view the film. The second problem—Is this film critic Zampano or is he only relaying someone else’s work, the way that Johnny Truant is? Then, we have this counter-narrative of Johnny’s interjections, as if in the margins, and at play with the critical work of “The Navidson Record.” At times they flow together, running side by side. At other times, they smash into each other and disrupt the “story,” as we are trying to receive it, and then they ultimately work together again at every multitude of levels. My favorite thing about the work of this stylistic choice is that the critic desperately makes us want to see the film, to participate and interact with his analysis more fully. Isn’t there something awful about being told about a film without then having the opportunity to go and view it for ourselves without the critic middle-manning us? How do we get to the source when the source only exists in the mediation of it? Johnny’s stories and descriptions mirror this idea. He is a story teller only, and he admits that many of the stories themselves are just his own creations. So again it seems that we have come back to our seemingly continuous obsession over ownership—one that I may suggest Johnny shares.

House of Leaves’ title page lists Zampano as the author, with Johnny credited for introduction and notes, and all the while admitting that Danielewski is the novel’s “true” author. This multi-layering and confusion embodies a perfect example of everything that has confused us in this senior seminar so far. Ultimately, thinking about the novel in terms of remediation makes all of the difference. It is a book about folklore, myth, and storytelling while overloading us with an incredible amount of interference, which seems to metaphorically represent the internet. As discussed and highlighted by everyone, the novel is a sensory overload when we try to take all parts of it in. It is hard to comprehend as a giant whole but much easier to pick at and pull apart. It is a book essentially about remediation at every level, and further it begs the question—Why move House of Leaves from its digital origin when it only highlights the failings of such a remediation? There are font choices made that mimic hyperlinked words that, when digital, we could actually navigate to and from instantly. Now, those words are merely highlighted. The footnotes are seemingly endless and many are false, and it seems impossible to track down all those references while maintaining a focus on the comprehension of the story. The novel seems capable of doing everything even while it’s movement, from a newer, digital medium back into the novel, suggests shortcomings that are ultimately irrelevant depending on how we want to approach the text.

*(I am sorry for this being late.)

Philip Petrunak


~ by philippetrunak on March 15, 2010.

One Response to “What’s Lost in Remediation?”

  1. “Isn’t there something awful about being told about a film without then having the opportunity to go and view it for ourselves without the critic middle-manning us? ”

    What’s interesting to me is that, like Milton, Zampan• is blind and as it is possible to piece together in, I think, the “…and Pieces” section, is dictating the critical piece that you are talking about. So…this does a couple of things: first, your frustration seems to be a feedback and a replication of some of Zampan•’s frustration and fascination with film (hence his persistence in having Tracy or whomever–mentioned around pg 148 or so in a footnote from Truant–come to his home and describe films [like Eraser] to him) which is what happened to me with the fear (and, while disappointed that no film actually exists, I found the filmic description to be captivating and possibly more lush than actual film–although Navidson would probably make an awesome piece , were he real)…
    Anyway. What I mean is that what you are experiencing is the book at large, messing with you (which is, I suppose, depending upon your own schools of philosophy, is a good or a bad thing) and that what you’re describing with the frustration is one of larger meta-functions present in the text (especially when one considers the reader’s parallel (?) (fractal) experiences with Johnny in the process of reading Zampan•’s text–we feel the connections that he feels with Z., both individually and reflexively, the experiences all working together simultaneously)…

    But, I would argue that in the remediation you describe and the example I mention above from the Pieces section, the cross-over functions to provide a clearer depiction of the affect that we’re both describing. It enables us to triangulate a point in space and center ourselves over some sort of safe haven of specific location, hoping to not get lost (if I can take the metaphor one step further) in the webs of these names and places and lists. The fact that we have the typists/readers/researchers as the actual authors of the piece, translating Zampan•’s ideas and speech into written word–women who exist in the text through mistakes, cross-outs, overcompensation and the (unwitting?) inclusions of Zampan•’s private matters and ramblings–the fact that we have their text, their notes (written in different hands, styles and voices) and their meetings with Johnny enable us to pinpoint these women and encapsulate them into *some*thing, even if it is a limited view.
    But, I digress. This is one example among many–some of which redact themselves onto the narrators (Z and J and sometimes Ed.) and some of which work to unmoor the reader, to force the reader to triangulate himself which, if the Fear is any example, cannot be done through tight analysis.

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