Unsettling the Reader: Typography in Mark Z. Danielewski’s “The Fifty Year Sword”

By Jarryd Luke.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Hartmut Stöckl (2005, 213) observes that linguistic reflection on typography would have been useless to creative writers twenty years ago, when typography was ‘firmly in the hands of a trained elite.’ Typographic design has traditionally been seen as something that happens after a book is written.
However, many creative writers are now using desktop publishing, and publishing their work in e-books or on the internet. It is becoming easier for authors to experiment with design elements as they write. Paul C. Gutjahr and Megan L. Benton (2001, 14) argue that, ‘as modern technology increasingly empowers writers to create their own typography, it becomes more important than ever to understand how authorial involvement further reveals the dynamic power of type to inflect literary content.’
This paper will address this debate to a modest extent by using a typographic grammar to analyse the unconventional typography in Mark Z. Danielewski’s “The Fifty Year Sword” (2005), which weaves together multiple layers of typography to unsettle the reader and challenge traditional concepts of narrative.

Keywords: Literary Studies, Typography, Desktop Publishing

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp.19-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 962.536KB).

Jarryd Luke

Postgraduate Research Student, Creative Writing and Literary Studies, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

I am a PhD candidate at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. My practice-led research project explores unconventional typography in literary fiction.


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