Centre for Regional Literature and Culture
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Architecture & Literature: Forms of Memory


This symposium set out to explore the common ground between architecture and literature through a series of cross-disciplinary dialogues. The two disciplines often employ a shared conceptual vocabulary – structure, texture, narrative, image, style – and they have each played key roles in the cultural experience of modernity. In his recent book, Architecture and Modern Literature (2012), David Spurr observes that: ‘Architecture, as the art of building, gives concrete form to the external world according to the structures of imagination; whereas literature, as the art of written language, gives symbolic form to that same world.’ Nonetheless, the precise character of the relationship between these concrete and symbolic forms, and their role in constructing modern spaces, deserves more detailed and nuanced investigation.

One important point of intersection between modern architecture and modern literature concerns the ways in which memory is inscribed, enacted, and expressed, whether as a form of words in a written text or through the spatial forms of the built environment. Writers as diverse as James Joyce and Walter Benjamin, Italo Calvino and W.G. Sebald have examined the dense layering of memories in urban spaces and buildings. Similarly, architectural critics and theorists attend to the social and symbolic significance of ruined or abandoned structures, lost, forgotten, or obsolete spaces, as well as other, more institutional lieux de memoire – monuments, museums, galleries, etc. Given this convergence of interests and disciplinary perspectives, the symposium welcomed papers from the following topics:

  • Spaces of remembering and forgetting
  • Haunted spaces and the modern unheimlich
  • Urban spaces and the politics of memory
  • The literature of ruins and ruination
  • Non-places and the cultures of modernity
  • Texture, textuality, and architectonics
  • Literature and lieux de memoire
  • The spaces of the archive
  • Walking: narrative, memory, embodiment
  • Monuments, memorials, and collective memory
  • Palimpsests: space, time, narrative

This one-day symposium was jointly organised by the School of English and the Architectural Humanities Research Group in the Department of Architecture and Built Environment with the help of Dr. Neal Alexander and Emma Zimmerman.

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Centre for Regional Literature and Culture

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University of Nottingham
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