Multimodal Books as Archives

deadline for submissions: 
October 10, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
International Society for the Study of Narrative
contact email: 

Multimodal Books as Archives

The annual conference of the International Society for the Study of Narrative

Lexington, KY: March 23-26, 2017

Please e-mail abstracts to the following addresses by October 10th, 2016



Andrew Piper observes, “Books are things that hold things.” Though Piper makes his observation with reference to reading practices that have been common for several centuries, in this late age of print, while attempting to utilize the affordances of book-objects, authors are keeping things inside books as part of the narrative design. This practice becomes increasingly prevalent in the late-20th and early-21st centuries, as part of what Alan Liu and Jessica Pressman understand as “bookish” culture. JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S (2013), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), Nick Bantock’s epistolary series, Griffin and Sabine (1991), are popular examples of books that contain assortments of objects. Other contemporary books like Graham Rawle’s Woman’s World (2005) re-purpose private archives. Avant-garde authors throughout the 20th/21st centuries have also turned to the book’s archivability, as exemplified by Andre Breton in his Nadja (1928), Theresa Hak Kyung Cha in her Dictee (1982), and Anne Carson in her NOX (2010). In some instances these texts archive actual historical materials (eg: Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo (1972)) or, at other times, objects that belong in a fictional world (S. or Extremely Loud). These books are multimodal because they functionalize several semiotic modes and keep the visual, tactile features of the archives at the forefront. What is more, in some cases, unpublished narratives by authors are now being published in this multimodal form (Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura). Such multimodal books stipulate conceptual shifts in our understanding and experience of literature. In this panel we will explore the narratological implications of the multimodal book’s function as archive.


We invite 150-200 word abstracts from faculty, graduate students, and independent scholars who might be interested in exploring narratological issues, perspectives, and challenges posed by the inclusion of fictional or non-fictional materials in multimodal books.


Questions to consider include (but are not limited to):

  • How do particular forms within the multimodal book (handwriting, maps, illustrations, photographs, etc.) construct an archive of experience?

  • How do archived materials impact the narrative experience of multimodal books?

  • In what ways do the presence of objects within books impact or revise our understanding of narratological concepts such as narrative voice, point of view, progression, or storyworlds?

  • How does considering the book as a public or private multimodal archive allow for or complicate feminist, queer, or other identitarian interventions into the study of narrative?

  • How can archived objects in narrative be read and understood using existing frameworks for studying materiality such as Thing Theory or Object Oriented Ontology?

  • How do archived materials in books lead to the narrativization of non-narrative media, such as photographs and maps?

  • To what extent do the aesthetics of the multimodal book as archive draw upon the aesthetics of comic books as archive? Can we read the two variations on archiving as emerging in similar media historical conditions?