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The Double, the Labyrinth and the Locked Room

Metaphors of Paradox in Crime Fiction and Film

Ilana Shiloh

Traditional detective fiction celebrates the victory of order and reason over the senseless violence of crime. Yet in spite of its apparent valorization of rationality, the detective genre has been associated from its inception with three paradoxical motifs – the double, the labyrinth and the locked room. Rational thought relies on binary oppositions, such as chaos and order, appearance and reality or truth and falsehood. Paradoxes subvert such customary distinctions, logically proving as true what we experientially know to be false.
The present book explores detective and crime-mystery fiction and film from the perspective of their entrenched metaphors of paradox. This new and intriguing angle yields fresh insights into a genre that has become one of the hallmarks of postmodernism.


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Part Two—The Labyrinth 87


PART TWO The Labyrinth CHAPTER FIVE The Labyrinth Anthropos apteros for days Walked whistling round and round the maze Relying happily upon His temperament for getting on. The hundredth time he sighted, though, A bush he left an hour ago, He halted where four alleys crossed And recognised that he was lost. (W.H. Auden, “The Labyrinth”) Auden’s awkwardly fumbling creature, dubbed “wingless man” as an homage to Daedalus, may aptly represent the literary critic grappling with the notion of the maze. In discussing the figure and the idea of the labyrinth, the scholar does not fare much better than the blithely oblivious anthropos apteros. He is lost. Like the maze walker, confused and disoriented by a construct of inextricable paths, the theorist may inadvertently mangle his terms, confound the visual with the mythical and reach a hermeneutic dead- end. The lostness of the traveler inside the labyrinth tends to be refracted to the meta-language of critical discourse about labyrinths. Both the signifier and the signified partake of this confusion. Is a labyrinth the same as a maze, which most critics would agree on, or is a maze a subcategory, one kind of a labyrinth, as maintained by Eco, for instance? If the linguistic criterion of synonymy is whether two words evoke the same mental image, does “a maze” evoke the same internal vision as “a labyrinth”? And what kind of a physical construct is a “labyrinth without an exit,” a metaphor that critics are fond of using in their discussions...

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