Labyrinths : navigating Daedalus' legacy : the role of labyrinths in selected contemporary fiction
This study initially engages in an historical survey of the varying key realisations of labyrinths and their applications from antiquity through to the beginnings of the twentieth century. The shifting cultural significance of the labyrinth and its deployment in historical documents and literature alike is also evaluated. In particular, it focuses on two distinctive manifestations of the labyrinth: the Egyptian and the Cretan. The examination of these ancient artefacts affords an analysis of the intersection of archaeology, mythology and cultural productions. At the core of this study is the analysis of the fecundity of labyrinths in late twentieth-century fiction, focalised through four salient texts: Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (1980), Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor (1985), Jeanette Winterson's The Passion (1987) and Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves (2000). These novels target specific usages of the trope, whereby the physical event of the labyrinth and its navigation, coupled with the labyrinthine text, intensifies an exploration of thematic issues. I will argue that a late twentieth-century engagement with complexity and ideas of selfhood coupled with a propensity for self-reflective narratology recalls the Egyptian and the Cretan labyrinths and so privileges these models. The labyrinth is considered as an appropriate medium to describe narrative construction and consumption in a manner that deconstructs the text as artifice and prioritises the reader's and the author's relationship to it. Specifically, the adoption of the labyrinth addresses the interplay between space and history in the textual arena and so encourages the individual to be envisaged as a transhistorical wandering figure. These textual usages foreground the apposite deployment of the labyrinth as this ancient meta-signifier is an entirely apposite vehicle for the interrogation of the late twentieth-century postmodern condition.