Billie Silvey
Recent years have brought a resurgence of interest in labyrinths.  In
Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, a philosophical detective
novel, the detective, Franciscan friar
William of Baskerville, uses
deductive reasoning to solve a series of murders in a medieval abbey
with the aid of his apprentice, Adso of Melk, a Benedictine novice.

The plan of the labyrinthine library where much of the action occurs is
based on a 13th century maze on the floor of
Rheims Cathedral.  The
action involves solving the maze as well as the mystery.

As William points out in the opening pages of the book,
"The library
defends itself, immeasureable as the truth it houses, deceitful as
the falsehood it preserves.  A spiritual labyrinth, it is also a
terrestrial labyrinth.  You might enter and you might not emerge."

Later, a character calls it "the labyrinth of the world."  And as they
walk through the maze, William teaches Adso a three-mark system
for keeping track of where you are in it.

In his
Postscript to the novel, Eco wrote, "An abstract model of
conjecturality is the labyrinth.  But there are three kinds of labyrinth.  
One is the Greek, the labyrinth of Theseus.  This kind does not allow
anyone to get lost:  you go in, arrive at the center, and then from the
center you reach the exit.  This is why in the center there is the
Minotaur; if he were not there the story would have no zest, it would
be a mere stroll.  Terror is born, if it is born, from the fact that you do
not know where you will arrive or what the Minotaur will do.  But if
you unravel the classical labyrinth, you find a thread in your hand, the
thread of Ariadne.  The classical labyrinth is the Ariadne's-thread itself.

"Then there is the mannerist maze:  if you unravel it, you find in your
hands a kind of tree, a structure with roots, with many blind alleys.  
There is only one exit, but you can get it wrong.  You need an
Ariadne's-thead to keep from getting lost.  This labyrinth is a model of
the trial-and-error process.

"And finally there is the net, or rather, what Deleuze and Guattari call
'rhizome.'  The rhizome is so constructed that every path can be
connected with every other one.  It has no center, no periphery, no
exit, because it is potentially infinite.  The space of conjecture is a
rhizome space.  The labyrinth of my library is still a mannerist
labyrinth, but the world in which William realizes he is living already
has a rhizome structure: that is, it can be structured but it is never
structured definitively."

The Name of the Rose was published in 1980 to surprising success.  
Expecting to sell only 30,000 copies, the publisher has sold over nine

Jean-Jacques Arnaud directed the movie version of The Name of the
e in 1986.  It starred Sean Connery and Christian Slater.

David Bowie starred in the 1986 British fantasy movie Labyrinth,
playing Jareth the Goblin King.  
Jennifer Connelly plays 15-year-old
Sarah Williams, who seeks to find the way though an enormous maze
to rescue her little brother Toby from Jareth.  She has to solve the
maze within 13 hours to keep Jareth from turning Toby into a goblin.

Other roles are played by puppets and a combination of puppetry and
human performance in the
Jim Henson film produced by George
Lucas and designed by Brian Froud.

Labyrinth, which was nominated for AFI's Top 10 Fantasy Films,
has become a cult film with an audience of women as well as children.

Since 1997, an annual two-day masquerade ball called
Labyrinth of Jareth" has been held in Hollywood.  Guests comes
dressed as various characters in the film.   

In 2006, the English musician
Sting produced an album of Songs
from the Labyrinth.  Featuring the music of Renaissance composer,
singer and lutenist
John Dowland, who is best known for his
melancholy songs, it is performed by Sting in collaboration with
Bosnian lute player
Edin Karamazov.

The music was featured on a "
Studio 60" special on NBC later shown
on PBS.  It featuried the two artists in scenes shot at Sting's homes,
Lake House near Wiltshire, England, and Il Palagio in Tuscany.  
Songs from the Labyrinth topped the classical charts for some time.
December 2011
The Labyrinth in
Popular Culture
Medieval Labyrinths
Hedge Mazes
Counterclockwise from top: Umberto
Eco; Sean Connery and Christian
Slater in
The Name of the Rose; Sting;
David Bowie.