The graffiti looks like a unicursal
labyrinth with the Roman numeral VII in its center from which an endless string of symbols run in a spiral.
She focuses on two principal works: The Divine Comedy by Dante and his unicursal
journey and the thirteenth century Quest del Saint Graal.
Both comprise a single, unicursal
path leading to the centre uninterruptedly.
In contrast with a maze, which taunts and teases its walker with numerous false starts and dead ends, the labyrinth is unicursal
; one walks one path in and returns on the same path out.
Multicursal mazes, presenting the participant with a perplexing quandary, replaced the unicursal
labyrinth of the Middle Ages, in which the Christian had no choice but to tread the path to salvation.
It is an oddity of these visual labyrinths that before the sixteenth century they are always unicursal
, that is to say that the y contain no blind alleys or choices and always lead through manifold windings from an entrance inside and then out again.
A labyrinth differs from a maze in that it is "unicursal
," i.e., it has a single path leading to the center, with no cul-de-sacs or forks.
The first insertion into the narrative forms a gyre that, reminiscent of a unicursal
maze, spirals into a center and then returns out again along the same path.
Hermann Kern (1982) and Penelope Doob (1990) distinguish between unicursal
and multicursal labyrinths: in the former, the wanderer is confused by an "inherent disorientation" caused, and fully controlled, by the maze architect who knows the single pathway to the center; in the latter, the wanderer repeatedly chooses which path to take and by choosing correctly transcends his confusion.(2) We can apply this distinction to the different labyrinths we find in Pynchon.
Also critical to Doob's analysis is the problem of the two types of labyrinth known to the middle ages: the unicursal
and the multicursal.
(1.) In her book, an indispensable study of the literary and artistic uses of the labyrinth from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, Doob, 48-51, establishes a fundamental distinction between the unicursal
labyrinth, which consists of a single path making its way unambiguously to the center without any directional choices facing the traveler, and the multicursal maze which multiplies "ambages" and confusion.
Yet, what differs him from the narrator of Tom Jones is that his "plotting" does not keep the action on its unicursal