Narrative Infrastructures: Architecture, Media, Fiction
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In this lecture I will show how infrastructure, or what the American novelist Henry Roth calls “the strange world behind the walls,” works not only as a highly visible and privileged topic of fiction, but also as an important way of thinking about narrative form. Reading infrastructures quite literally as narrative objects – and thinking about the narrative infrastructures that order and orient everyday experience – allows for a reconceptualization of the built world and its visibilities. It also makes room for reconsidering the structures of the persons that inhabit this world and its descriptions, for infrastructure has the uncanny tendency to provide in literary representations the precise locus of modern reflexivity. I will discuss how the idea of infrastructure develops in contemporary media theory, and how forms of blockage, noise, or excessive connectivity have been rendering infrastructures textually visible in works of narrative and visual art over the past century. The task, then, will be to discover in infrastructure not only a vast system of metaphoric resonance, but the structure of modern communication, and to therefore put pressure on theories of architectonics and construction otherwise unaccountable to this paradoxical situation.

Kate Marshall is Professor of Literature and Media Studies at Notre Dame University, Indiana USA.