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The Maze in the Mind and the World: Labyrinths in Modern Literature: 02/16/18

The Maze in the Mind and the World: Labyrinths in Modern Literature by Donald Gutierrez

The Maze in the Mind and the World: Labyrinths in Modern Literature by Donald Gutierrez is a collection of literary analysis around the motif of the labyrinth in modern literature. I read the collection to see if it was relevant for my road narrative project. Save for the introduction, the short answer is no.

Guitierrez in the introduction writes that he will use the word labyrinth and maze interchangeably. Unfortunately most novels I've read where one or the other is used, the language is specific and the allusion is purposeful. The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh builds its story around the contrasting motifs of maze (a puzzle with blind alleys) and labyrinths (a single spiraling path that goes in to the center and back out again). Trying to use Guitierrez's methodology on such a book would be futile.

Guiterrez's thesis is the the maze / labyrinth is a metaphor or life or parts of life (adolescence, sex, death). As he puts it: "Life is often presented as a line (a path, a road) or sometimes as a circle. But it also has been regarded as a labyrinth or maze, a dark or mysterious place full of windings and exits that lead nowhere." (p. 2)

However, in the road narrative books I've read where a maze or a labyrinth features, the inclusion is always as some method of barrier or some unattainable thing. The maze (often a maize maze, see Lowriders to the Center of the Earth for an example.

In my reading of road narratives that feature a maze or a labyrinth (or in viewing television series or films that do), the maze serves as a barrier: either to keep the characters in or to keep something (a town or a magical land) hidden. This barrier usually can only be crossed on foot, or via "the walking world" as Kate Milford calls it in The Kairos Mechanism (2012). In the case of Labyrinth (1986), the film uses both a maze (the thing Sarah actually has to go through to rescue her brother) and a metaphorical labyrinth (the change in her state of mind over her feelings of jealousy for her baby brother).

The essays themselves were literary readings of old modern literature, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and ones of similar vintage. The novels I've been reading are significantly younger than the ones selected by Gutierrez. His selection were also primarily British and mine are primarily American.

Road narratives featuring mazes or labyrinths

Two stars

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