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Friday, May 02, 2014
9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)

Materialities, Texts and Images (MTI) Workshop

BUILDING STORIES: Intersections of Writing and Architecture
  • Craig Dworkin, University of Utah
  • Kate Marshall, University of Notre Dame
  • Molly Murray, Columbia University
  • Marjorie Perlof, Stanford University and USC
  • Stefanie Sobelle, 2013-14 MTI Fellow

Why are there stories and passages in both houses and literature? Why do we speak of archives, texts, and environments as having been "built"? How has the significance of "building" changed over history? What is the relationship between building and structure? Building and dwelling? Building and materiality? Building and language? This one-day workshop examines "building" as a concept and a practice by considering the relationships between buildings and books, architecture and literature, from the early modern period to the present. What are the conceptual processes that architects and writers both share? What has been the impact of architectural thinking on literary form, and literature on architectural design? In what ways do literary spaces approximate the built environment and vice versa? What, when brought together, can literature and architecture tell us about the imbrication of storytelling and design? Finally, what do these relationships tell us about how we live and interact as a society? Scholars working in a range of periods and genres will discuss the significance of building in literature and architecture.

Paper titles and a schedule are listed below; detailed abstracts and bios will be available on the MTI website.

The workshop will be hosted by the Materialities, Texts and Images Program (MTI) under the purview of John Brewer, Eli and Edye Broad Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at California Institute of Technology, and Steve Hindle, Director of Research at the Huntington Library. This particular workshop has been organized by Stefanie Sobelle, one of the two current MTI fellows.

Please RSVP by April 28 to Stefanie Sobelle,


9:30am-10am - Coffee & Refreshments

10am-11am - Stefanie Sobelle: Welcome & Introduction: The Architectural Novel

Stefanie Sobelle will provide an overview of the workshop and its speakers as well as discuss her current project on "the architectural novel," a term which refers to domestic novels that treat the house not only thematically but also formally, demonstrating ways in which the material book approximates architectural space. Sobelle makes the case that American fiction attends to architecture and space as one of its primary gestures and shows how literary and architectural spaces may be interconnected.

Stefanie Sobelle is as Assistant Professor of English at Gettysburg College and one of two 2013-2014 MTI Fellows at Caltech and the Huntington Library. She is currently completing a book manuscript on how domestic architecture has shaped the American novel from the late 19thcentury to the present.

11am-12pm - Kate Marshall: The Contemporary Realist Floor Plan

Marshall will provide a contemporary context for re-reading Fredric Jameson's 1985 essay "The Realist Floor Plan." Jameson's essay importantly located in the relationship between architectural and literary form the secular transformations of bourgeois society. She will suggest, by attending to the renewed enthusiasm of literary critics for realist literary practices and theory, that this account should be re-examined, and that its strong sense of spatial encoding be brought to bear on the new realisms. She will test this notion by reading the floor plans of several contemporary examples of realist fiction.

Kate Marshall is Thomas J. and Robert T. Rolfs Assistant Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, where she also serves on the faculty of the History and Philosophy of Science. She is the author of Corridor: Media Architectures in American Fiction and is co-editor, with Tobias Boes, of a forthcoming special issue of the minnesota review devoted to mediation in the Anthropocene. She has published in journals including Novel and Studies in American Fiction, and sits on the steering committee of the Post45 editorial collective.

12pm-1:30pm - Lunch in the Dabney Gardens

1:30pm-2:30pm - Molly Murray: Un-narrow Rooms: Prisons and Poems in Early Modern England

In "Nuns fret not at their convents' narrow rooms," William Wordsworth praises one particularly straitened poetic form—the fourteen-line sonnet—through an analogy with the spiritualizing constraints of monastic architecture. This paper reconsiders the link between lyric and confinement by focusing on an important and overlooked physical site of poetic composition in early modern England: the prison. The London prisons housed a remarkable number of poets in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—from Wyatt to Ralegh to Lovelace to countless psalmists and hymnodists—and a great many important experiments in poetic form were conducted within prison walls. These walls, however, were hardly as confining as Wordsworth's poem proposes. After considering the surprisingly anti-panoptical architecture of the early modern prison, this paper will consider a number of experiments in carceral lyric, and in doing so will attempt to think beyond the paradigms of limit and transcendence that continue to shape analyses of both cell and stanza.

Molly Murray is associate professor of English at Columbia University. She is the author of The Poetics of Conversion in Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge 2009), and articles on Milton, Donne, Jonson and others.

2:40pm-3:40pm - Craig Dworkin: A Machine that Makes the Art: the textual architecture of conceptual writing

This talk will examine two antithetical understandings of "machines" and "engines" as metaphors for artistic and textual production, or as blueprints for constructing the structural architecture of a text. Dworkin will propose that their divergent ideologies offer a way of understanding the difference between 'pataphysical and oulipian constructions, as well as between the competing understandings of Conceptual Writing currently under debate.

Craig Dworkin is the author of Reading the Illegible (Northwestern, 2003) and No Medium (MIT, 2013) and the editor of five collections, including The Consequence of Innovation: 21st Century Poetics (Roof Books, 2008); The Sound of Poetry/ The Poetry of Sound (with Marjorie Perloff, Chicago 2009) and Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (with Kenneth Goldsmith, Northwestern 2011). He teaches literary history and theory at the University of Utah and serves as the Senior Editor to the Eclipse Archive.

3:50pm-4:50pm Marjorie Perloff: Minimalist Architecture in Carl Andre's Quincy Book and The Sonnets

In Quincy Book (1973), a collection of black and white photographs of Carl Andre's Massachusetts hometown, what are actually images from around the town—graveyards, headstones, iron works, rockfaces, etc.—are composed as stark geometric forms. This paper will discuss the treatment of space in Andre's photography vis-à-vis the minimalist "Sonnets."

Marjorie Perloff is both Sadie D. Patek Professor Emerita of Humanities at Stanford University and Florence Scott Professor Emerita at the University of Southern California. Her many books include The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage (1981); The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture (1986, new edition, 1994); Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media (1992); 21st Century Modernism (Blackwell 2002); The Vienna Paradox (2004); Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy (2005); Wittgenstein's Ladder; The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound, co-edited with Craig Dworkin (2009); and UNORIGINAL GENIUS: Poetry by Other Means in the Twenty-First Century (2010). She is currently under contract with the U of Chicago Press for a book on Austrian Modernism between the two World Wars. Perloff has been a frequent reviewer for periodicals from TLS and The Washington Post to all the major scholarly journals, and she has lectured at most major universities in the U.S. and at European, Asian, and Latin American universities and festivals. She has held Guggenheim, NEH, and Huntington fellowships, served on the Advisory Board of the Stanford Humanities Center, and served as President of the Modern Language Association. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and recently was named Honorary Foreign Professor at the Beijing Modern Languages University. She received an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters, from Bard College in May 2008. For further information, see

Download the workshop information

For more information, please contact Sabrina Boschetti by phone at 626-395-4228 or by email at