Remediation, Oral Storytelling, and the Printed Book: The Stylistic Strategies of Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Fifty Year Sword

  • Alison Gibbons
Part of the New Directions in Book History book series (NDBH)


Employing close stylistic analysis, Alison Gibbons demonstrates that Mark Z. Danielewski’s novella The Fifty Year Sword abounds with linguistic, typographical, and narrative devices that remediate folkloristic oral storytelling, as exemplified by the novella’s embedded ghost story. At the same time, however, Danielewski’s fiction also draws the readers’ attention to the material and textual features of the printed book through the use of multimodality, paratextual elements, multiple narrators, and experiments with word choice and phonological patterning. Gibbons’s detailed analysis shows that poetics of bookishness may function in contemporary literature both to address the codex’s shifting position in digital culture and to reconnect present literary practices with older literary traditions, such as oral storytelling around the campfire, that offer communal forms of art and communication.


  1. Bakhtin, M.M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 2000. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Carpenter, Kasey. 2012. Allways: An interview with Mark Z. Danielewski. The Millions, October 15. Accessed 12 Mar 2014.
  4. Chanen, Brian W. 2007. Surfing the Text: The Digital Environment in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. European Journal of English Studies 11 (2): 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Danielewski, Mark Z. 2000. House of Leaves. London: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  6. ———. 2005. The Fifty Year Sword. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2010. The Fifty Year Sword (with Shadows). Performance at REDCAT, Los Angeles, October 31.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2012. The Fifty Year Sword. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  9. Egan, Jennifer. 2010. A Visit from the Goon Squad. London: Corsair.Google Scholar
  10. Evans, Mel. 2011. This Haunted House: Intertextuality and Interpretation in Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000) and Poe’s Haunted (2000). In Mark Z. Danielewski, ed. Joe Bray and Alison Gibbons, 68–85. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fludernik, Monika. 1996. Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gibbons, Alison. 2010. Narrative Worlds and Multimodal Figures in House of Leaves: ‘-find your own words; I have no more.’. In Intermediality and Storytelling, ed. Marina Grishakova and Marie-Laure Ryan, 285–311. Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  13. Grider, Sylvia. 1999. Children’s Telling of Ghost Stories. In Traditional Storytelling Today: An International Sourcebook, ed. Margaret Read MacDonald, 539–543. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Hansen, Mark B.N. The Digital Topography of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Contemporary Literature 45 (4): 597–636.Google Scholar
  15. Hayles, N. Katherine. 2002a. Saving the Subject: Remediation in House of Leaves. American Literature 74 (4): 779–806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. ———. 2002b. Writing Machines. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kalogeras, Stavroula. 2014. Transmedia Storytelling and the New Era of Media Convergence in Higher Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Malcuzynski, M.-Piereete. 1984. Polyphonic Theory and Contemporary Literary Practices. Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 9 (1): 75–87.Google Scholar
  19. McCormick, Paul. 2011. House of Leaves, Cinema and the New Affordances of Old Media. In Mark Z. Danielewski, ed. Joe Bray and Alison Gibbons, 52–67. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Pantheon and Schocken Books Catalogue. 2015. Accessed Oct. 2016.
  21. Plett, Heinrich F. 2010. Literary Rhetoric: Concepts – Structures – Analyses. Leiden: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pressman, Jessica. 2006. Reading the Networked Novel. Studies in American Fiction 34 (1): 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2009. The Aesthetics Bookishness in Twenty-First Century Literature. Michigan Quarterly Review 48 (4): 465–482.Google Scholar
  24. Rajewsky, Irina O. 2005. Intermediality, Intertextuality, and Remediation: A Literary Perspective on Intermediality. Intermédialités (6): 43–64.Google Scholar
  25. Raley, Rita. ‘Bookwork’ After Bookwork. Conference Paper Presented at “Charisma of the Book: Global Perspectives for the 21st Century,” March 14–16, 2016, New York University, Abu Dhabi.Google Scholar
  26. Starre, Alexander. 2016. Organic Book Design from Dwiggins to Danielewski: The Metamedial Aesthetics of Embodied Literature in American Trade Publishing. In Publishing as Artistic Practice, ed. Annette Gilbert, 74–87. Berlin: Sternberg Press.Google Scholar
  27. White, Glyn. 2011. Reading the Graphic Surface of Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Fifty Year Sword. In Mark Z. Danielewski, ed. Joe Bray and Alison Gibbons, 105–120. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Wolf, Werner. 2005. Intermediality. In Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, ed. David Herman, Manfred Jahn, and Marie Laure Ryan, 252–256. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Gibbons
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Humanities, Faculty of Social Sciences and HumanitiesSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations