House of Leaves Project

See 2015 Engl. 108 students’ results: Spreadsheet for Public Links to 2015 Student Maps & Interactive Fiction

Spreadsheet for Public Links to 2016 Student Maps

Explanation and Basic Requirements

This is a scaffolded project, which means that there are several assignments and due dates that will help you achieve the final outcome of creating an interactive fiction of our ur-text, House of Leaves. Each assignment builds on our class discussions, readings, and explorations surrounding “interactive fiction,” narrative, and gaming. All assignments must be completed and submitted by the due date in order to receive a grade for the final portfolio of the project. Failure to submit an assignment will result in an F on the entire project. The final project portfolio must be submitted by the due date; failure to do so will result in an F on the entire project.

  • Annotation Assignment (30%) – due 9/27 by 12pm
  • Mapping Assignment (20%) – various due dates
  • Rationale (30%) – due 10/27, 10/31 5pm
  • Interactive Fiction Design (20%) – due 10/27, 10/31 5pm

Annotating a Page from House of Leaves (due 9/27 by 12pm)

Textual annotations have a long history in literary studies. They are in essence commentary on a text, sometimes offered as marginalia alongside the main text, other times as footnotes, and yet other times as entirely separate documents.

Annotations can serve many functions, depending upon their context. They can be exegetical, drawing out meanings and interpretations from a passage or even an individual word. They can be focused on a book’s history, noting variations that occur in different editions. They can be generated from a reader’s own idiosyncratic response to a text—for example, quotations and passages from the text the reader wishes to collect and remember, and put in dialogue with one another.

Your annotations should not be guided by an overarching argument. Rather, annotate the page in a kind of free association way, commenting upon words, passages, and patterns in any way you are compelled to do so. I encourage you to research unfamiliar names, places, or phrases (in any language!) that appear in the text, and to annotate these as well.

Your work for the assignment will consist of

  1. a photocopy of one page from House of Leaves, with the bulk of your annotations directly on the page — if you’re comfortable with writing in your book, just take a photo of the actual page.
  2. a typed collection of your annotations, plus any further commentary that would not fit on the novel’s page, or which didn’t occur to you during the initial process of annotation.
  3. a 400-500 word reflection about the annotations. What did such intense scrutiny of a page in the novel reveal? Was there a pattern to what you annotated? How does the material you annotated contribute to or even complicate the overall themes of the novel?
  1. Take a photo of your annotated page and insert it into a Google Document titled: [last name] Annotated Page. (For help with creating a Google Document, see Google Support on Create and Re-name Documents)
  2. Create a new document for your annotations and type your annotations into a Google Document titled: [last name] Annotations
  3. Create another new document for your reflection about the annotations in a Google Document titled: [last name] Reflection on Annotations

Leave out the brackets around your name.

The final version of each document should be shared with me  ( by 12pm on Sept 27.

Be sure to give me permission to edit your Google document.

  • Your name should be placed at the top of each document
  • Provide a title
  • Proofread the writing
  • For the reflection, check the essay’s organization
  • Use MLA style to format and cite your quotations in the reflections
  • Be sure to conform to the writing tipsno use of I or you in these writings
Grading for Annotation

This investigation is due on Sept 27 by 12pm and is worth 30% of the House of Leaves project. The essay will be graded (with a letter grade) based on the written expression of the mission. Effective, grammatically-correct, and thoughtful writing will determine the grade. Failure to submit this assignment will cause failure in the entire project

[A portion of the assignment relies on Mark Sample’s “Investigation” assignment]

Mapping House of Leaves (various due dates)

See students’ results: Spreadsheet for Public Links to 2016 Student Maps

Throughout the first part of the semester, we will map portions of House of Leaves in a rudimentary hand-drawing. (See our course our blavatar as an example.) Each time you are asked to map the novel, you will also be asked to take a photo and post it to your blog (tag: HoL map). You will have multiple images for this assignment on your blog:

  • Sept 6 7 by 5pm: Hand-drawn map of any chapter through chapter 4 (completed in-class, credit/no credit) (tag: HoL map)
  • Sept 16 Sept 19: Hand-drawn map of the entire novel through chapter 10 due by 5pm, 5 pts  (tag: HoL map)
  • Sept 23 Sept 26, 7am: Hand-drawn map of chps 11-15 due by 5pm, 5 pts (tag: HoL map)
  • Oct 7: Hand-drawn map of chps 16-20 due by 5pm, 5 pts (tag: HoL map)
  • Oct 14 Oct 18, 5pm: Hand-drawn map of chps 21-23, 5 pts (tag: HoL map)
  • See students’ results: Spreadsheet for Public Links to Student Maps

Either continue drawing on the previous week’s hand drawing or start a new sheet. You may also use other creative means to create a map — for instance, note cards or sticky notes taped to a wall for ease of moving around the elements.  (In the image, it needs to be apparent where there is progress, though. You may have to indicate in the photo where this has occurred.)

A Word about Mapping

You may use crude drawings or implement software to help you — either way, this is about creating a visualization of this complex narrative.

This novel offers a complex set of narratives that may or may not link to one another. The page design itself is also rife with bibliographic codes (epigraph, footnotes, etc.). The linguistic codes consist of the words on the page — but sometimes, those words appear at the top of the page with the remainder of the page left to negative space. You will have to decide how to map not only the plot (the action driving the narrative), but also all of these other unusual elements in this seemingly messy novel. Resist your inclination to make it orderly.

Maps serve two visual purposes, essentially the difference between skimming every topic sentence of paragraphs vs. close reading and analysis of those same paragraphs:

  1. an overview accessible with a glance; and
  2. a closer view that reveals details and critical engagement with the entire novel.

This assignment is not necessarily a summary of the plot. There are many more elements to this novel than a simple plot. Plan to use a variety of colors to indicate various features (simple use of red, black, and blue ink will suffice). Note that pencil typically does not photograph well. Icons and a key or legend are part of the process. If your map becomes complicated, add a key/legend for clarification.

When taking photos of your maps, please ensure that the photos posted to your blog are readable. If you insist on using phrases (and you’ll have to justify this), they need to be readable in order to be grade-able. The orientation of your images also needs to be facing correctly so they are readable, especially if you use words or phrases.

Grading for Mapping

These mapping posts are worth 20% of the House of Leaves project. Each post is worth 5 points. The points are based on the thoroughness of your mapping and the details upon which you focus in the maps themselves. (Be sure the images are very clear when posting to your blog.) These images will be checked each week for progress and will be submitted with your project portfolio on 10/27, 5pm. With the exception of the first map completed in class, failure to post one of the maps will cause failure in the entire project.

Interactive Fiction Design (due 10/27, 10/31 5pm)

By October, you will have become an authority on the Postmodern novel, House of Leaves. Each week, we have explored this novel through comparison between print novel form (with all of its contingent bibliographic codes) and interactive fiction:

House of Leaves is full of ruptures of the traditional print novel form because of its multiple narratives, bibliographic codes, and visual page design (e.g., typography, negative space). In addition, House of Leaves insists on its own authority by representing some of its bibliographic codes as reference material (e.g., the index, epigraphs, footnotes, and embedded bibliography) — but, as we have found out, the reader is often mislead. This novel uses “medium-specific narrativity” (Thon “Narrativity” 353) while also endorsing the “prototypical properties of narrative” (352) — all very similar to interactive fiction. For this reason, we will use House of Leaves as the foundation for creating your own interactive fiction.

To understand House of Leaves‘ plot, character, setting (according to Hints for Reading Fiction), you have already created an extensive set of maps. Some of you worked only on the Navidson Record and eschewed the other narratives. Others mapped the complexity of the interlinking narratives by making critical decisions about the essential elements. Yet others mapped the bibliographic codes embedded into this novel. Now, it’s time to make your own version of House of Leaves. Don’t worry. You don’t need technical expertise.

For this mid-semester project, re-create, revise, or re-mix House of Leaves into a work of interactive fiction. You don’t actually have to program anything. Instead, for this design assignment, create a hand-drawn storyboard, story map, or prototype of your interactive fiction. This is the visual component of the project. The critical engagement, explanation, and rules will be articulated in your Rationale.

First, choose which type of interactive fiction (IF) you would like to create:

  • Outer level: “narrative is presented through an interactive interface, but the user’s actions affect neither the content of the story nor the discourse. The text of the story appears in a fixed order, and the purpose of moving the cursor and clicking on buttons is to take the reader to the next episode. These actions recapture the properties of the book [novel] for the digital medium by allowing readers to set their own pace.  . . .  On this level of interactivity, the user’s input is more a tool to get more data than the result of an interesting choice” (“Interactive Narrative” 293)
  • Hypertext Narrative:  tree (author-controlled) or network (user-controlled). Read these descriptions in “Interactive Narrative” (para. 1, 294).
  • Internal participation: user as an avatar (not a character within!) with physical engagement in the surrounding world of the fiction. Utilizes the quest narrative. Read further description in “Interactive Narrative” (para. 2, 294).
  • Emergent story: “story generated on the fly out of data that come in part from the system and in part from the user” (para. 3, 295). This is the most advanced form of interactive fiction and should be undertaken by someone who is willing to work in TextureWriter, Twine or Adrift (or other comparable software).

What type of interactive fiction will you create? Look at your maps: what has surfaced in your critical engagement with House of Leaves? What icons repeat through the chapters? How have you set up the map itself to parallel (or not) the narrative structure of the novel? Does your map take into account bibliographic codes and the page design? How can you translate the Postmodern and Gothic elements into an interactive fiction? This is an opportunity to re-write, revise, or re-mix the novel based on your mapping, but resist the urge to clean it up simply because it’s messy in the original!

For the construction of this prototype, you may either use paper, pen, pencil, scissors in much the same way that you crafted your maps or create a story map or a storyboard (adapt this for interactive fiction). For those who are comfortable with Powerpoint, you may use it to create a presentation or series of charts to indicate the flow of your project. Photograph or take video of your story map or storyboard in action. For others who are comfortable with use of software (or are willing to explore), try TextureWriter (new),  Twine (download or online), InkleWriter (online), or Inform (experienced users). (If you are already using or know of software to author IF, please let me know.)

By 5pm on October 27 31, post the link to your images (posted to your blog), video (posted on YouTube), TextureWriter (public archive), or Twine (IF archive?) creation at the top of the first page of your Rationale so I may review it for grading.

Note: Dr. Zach Whalen (via Twitter) pointed out an example of interactive fiction made from a combination of “Colossal Cave Adventure” and House of Leaves: “It Is Pitch Black (Demo).”

Grading the Design

This design is due on Oct 27 31 by 5pm and is worth 20% of the House of Leaves project. The design will be graded upon your ability to effectively represent an interpretation of House of Leaves as interactive fiction. Elements of narrativity, clarity of design, playability, and user/player/reader interactions will be considered. A letter grade will be indicated for this design (indicated and explained at the conclusion of your Rationale). Failure to submit this assignment will cause failure in the entire project

Rationale (1200 words, due Oct 27, 31 5pm)

The success of your interactive fiction creation is not necessarily based on how talented you are as graphic designer. Instead, this re-creation, re-mixing, or revision is based on your sustained critical engagement with all elements of this novel, especially those six bullet points listed above.

The Rationale is the place to demonstrate your understanding of the complexity of House of Leaves and to discuss and justify the choices made for your interactive fiction interpretation. This is where you will describe the construction of your interactive fiction, identify the type of interactive fiction (using quotes from the articles in the JHGDM, especially those linked above in the six bullet points and most especially from “Interactive Fiction”).  Describe, discuss, and justify the selection of text, icons; articulate the presence of user/reader/player; assess the use of bibliographic codes in visual design; describe and discuss the use of plot type. You may even discuss the reasons for excluding certain elements of the original.

The Rationale will include at the top of the document:

  1. Your name and the title of your IF;
  2. the link(s) to your images, video, or Twine IF; and
  3. links to all of the mapping posts on your blog (specific links to each HoL mapping post, not your general blog URL; to be used for comparison to your IF).

Double check before submitting:

  • Proofread the writing
  • Check the essay’s organization
  • Use MLA style to format and cite your quotations in the rationale
  • Include a MLA-formatted Works Cited or Bibliography, including entries for any  images used
  • Be sure to conform to the writing tipsno use of I or you

Create a new document for your Rationale in Google Docs titled: [last name] Rationale IF

Leave out the brackets around your name. Be sure to give me permission to edit your Google document.

The final version of each document should be shared with me  ( by 5pm on Oct 27 31.

Grading of the Rationale

This Rationale is due on Oct 27 31 by 5pm and is worth 30% of the House of Leaves project. The essay will be graded (with a letter grade) based on the written expression of the mission. Effective, grammatically-correct, and thoughtful writing will determine the grade. Failure to submit this assignment will cause failure in the entire project

2 thoughts on “House of Leaves Project

  1. […] More recently, Gaming & Narrative (2014) contains a collaborative, scaffolded project with intermediary assignments that are graded. This helps students see the building of the project as steps rather than one huge, overwhelming masterpiece at the conclusion of the semester. We used low-tech digital tools with the exception of the game-design software (freely available): […]

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