Multimodal Books as Archives (CFP for Narrative Conference 2018)

deadline for submissions: 
October 5, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Torsa Ghosal and Brian Davis
contact email: 

Title of the panel to be proposed: Multimodal Books as Archives

Conference: 2018 International Conference on Narrative


Where: McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Dates: April 19 – 22, 2018.


Co-chairs: Torsa Ghosal (California State University, Sacramento) and Brian Davis (University of Maryland, College Park)


Contemporary authors are keeping things inside books in order to subvert epistemological circumscription, drawing attention to the distributed networks of people and media that configure knowledge. Avant-garde authors throughout the 20th/21st centuries have also turned to the book’s archivability. However, this practice has become increasingly prevalent since the 1980s with changes in the print culture and the proliferation of digital media. Theresa Cha’s Dictee (1982),  Steve Tomasula’s The Book of Portraiture (2006), Mark Z. Danielewski’s Only Revolutions (2006), and Anne Carson’s Nox (2010) are popular examples of multimodal books that are also archives. These books functionalize several semiotic systems and foreground the visual, tactile features of the archives and, as such, are “multimodal.” In this panel, we are interested in papers that would consider why and how contemporary authors are transforming the book-object into a site for archiving and the extent to which this practice might be problematizing basic assumptions common to narrative theory, and whether a more interdisciplinary approach, such as one that combines narrative theory with the field of textual and media studies, would benefit our understanding of multimodal books as archives and works of archival fiction.


Thus, we invite scholars of contemporary narrative, literature, and culture to submit (150 to 200-word) abstracts for a fifteen to twenty minute paper presentation on those multimodal fictions, poetry, or comics (1980-present, but preferably 21st century) in which issues of archive play a significant role. We seek papers that explore the narratological issues raised when literary texts foreground the motifs, thematics, and topoi of collecting, appraising, or preserving media artifacts, interrogating the material and expressive resources of the book medium, prompting us to think more critically about the ontological similarities and differences between fictional/literary archives and actual archives or databases. Likewise, we invite papers that explore the relation of archiving as a cultural practice with the experience of memory and recall in the light of the contemporary multimodal literary texts.

Questions this panel is interested in include but are not limited to:

  • In what ways do archived materials impact the narrative experience of fictions and poetry?

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

  • How do multimodal archives within books affect the construction of fictional minds and representation of thought in fictional narratives?

  • Can multimodality resist dominant modes of representation, potentiating new configurations between material signs and biological subjects?

  • Can multimodal books as archives enable us to reimagine “reading” as an embodied, intersubjective performance for political ends?

  • How can archived objects in narratives be read and understood with reference to existing frameworks for studying materiality such as Media Archaeology, Thing Theory, or Object Oriented Ontology?

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

Please send us your abstracts at bdavis21[at] or torsa[dot]ghosal[at]csus[dot]edu by October 05, 2017. Let us know should you have any questions.