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Architecture and Modern Literature

David Anton Spurr

Publication Year: 2012

Architecture and Modern Literature explores the representation and interpretation of architectural space in modern literature from the early nineteenth century to the present, with the aim of showing how literary production and architectural construction are related as cultural forms in the historical context of modernity. In addressing this subject, it also examines the larger questions of the relation between literature and architecture and the extent to which these two arts define one another in the social and philosophical contexts of modernity. Architecture and Modern Literature will serve as a foundational introduction to the emerging interdisciplinary study of architecture and literature. David Spurr addresses a broad range of material, including literary, critical, and philosophical works in English, French, and German, and proposes a new historical and theoretical overview of this area, in which modern forms of "meaning" in architecture and literature are related to the discourses of being, dwelling, and homelessness.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

This is a book about the interpretation of architectural forms in modern literature. One of its claims is that literature’s encounter with the built environment is essential to its definition of what is sometimes called modernity, meaning the set of material and symbolic forms that constitute...

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pp. xiii

Parts of this book have appeared elsewhere. Chapter 1 was published as “An End to Dwelling: Re›ections on Modern Literature and Architecture,” in...

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Introduction: Meaning in Architecture and Literature

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pp. 1-49

In the monumental collection of fragments known as Das Passagen-Werk, Walter Benjamin remarks that architecture bears the most important testimony to the hidden “mythology” of a society (1002). As in so many of the remarks tossed out by the German...

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1. An End to Dwelling: Architectural and Literary Modernisms

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pp. 50-72

The Buster Keaton movie One Week (1920) is a possibly unintended but nonetheless effective allegory of a twentieth-century predicament. In this, Keaton’s first independent film, he and Sybil Seely play the roles of newlyweds who build their new home, to be assembled according to numbered...

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2. Demonic Spaces: Sade, Dickens, Kafka

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pp. 73-98

In the eighth chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus travels in the land of the Gadarenes, where he is confronted by two men possessed by demons (daimonisomenous), who have come from the tombs of the dead. “Art thou come hither to torment us before...

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3. Allegories of the Gothic in the Long Nineteenth Century

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pp. 99-141

“The gothic gets away,” writes Henry Adams, musing on the Cathedral of Chartres in the summer of 1904: “No two men think alike about it, and no woman agrees with either” (87). Over a hundred years later, it is fair to say that medieval Gothic architecture still eludes...

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4. Figures of Ruin and Restoration: Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc

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pp. 142-161

The two most prominent architectural theorists of the nineteenth century— Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and John Ruskin, both champions of the Gothic—held diametrically opposed ideas on the question of architectural restoration. Viollet-le-Duc devoted a successful career to...

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5. Proust’s Interior Venice

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pp. 162-186

Although other novels have architects as heroes, Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu may be the only one whose principal character conducts research in architectural history and criticism. In the sixth published volume of Proust’s work, known as...

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6. Monumental Displacement in Ulysses

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pp. 187-203

Joyce’s Ulysses belongs to a literary tradition that defines modernity in terms of the tension between enduring archaic forms and unceasing forces of change, a complex relation that is concretized in the structures of urban space. We have seen in chapter 1 how Leopold Bloom...

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7. Architecture in Frost and Stevens

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pp. 204-220

In a passage made famous by Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Hölderlin proclaims...

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8. Annals of Junkspace: Architectural Disaffection in Contemporary Literature

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pp. 221-248

The title of this chapter is adapted from a 2002 essay by the architect Rem Koolhaas, who, in the tradition of the architectural manifesto, unleashes a polemic against the constructed environment of the new twenty-first century. “Junkspace” is Koolhaas’s name...

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Postface: Covered Ground

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pp. 249-253

How to live? This is the question that modern literature implicitly poses in its interpretation of architectural form, in its testimony to the effects of that form on human relations and the mind, and in its imagination of alternate kinds of constructed space...


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pp. 255-262


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pp. 263-276


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pp. 277-285

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028245
E-ISBN-10: 0472028243
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051717
Print-ISBN-10: 0472071718

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 11 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Architecture and literature.
  • Space perception in literature.
  • Literature, Modern -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Literature, Modern -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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