Approaches to “Solid Objects”

For this autumn’s course in methods in literary theory, I decided on Virginia Woolf’s short story “Solid Objects” (1920). Over the course of six sessions, we applied a range of methods and approaches to the text. Each week, I gained new insights about the text and about literary studies’ ability to draw out meaning. Delving into the text like John with his fingers into the sand, only to come up with something that is strangely nondescript and still full of power and meaning. Not surprising to see that materialist approaches to the text have been particularly foregrounded in the past few decades. Thanks especially to all the students who actively participated despite the difficult circumstances.

The approaches and methods we applied:

Close reading

Theory of mind



Writing as method


Any approaches or methods that should definitely be included if I teach the same class again next year? Contact me with ideas at lieven.ameel [a]

Course: KIRA2 – menetelmät ja sovellukset / “methods and applications”



“Future Days” session on narratives of the city – 2 Dec 2020

It was a virtual conference rather than a physical meeting in Paris for this year’s “Future Days” (1-3 Dec 2020), where I had the honor to chair a workshop on storytelling and the city (“Mettre en récit la ville”) together with Anne Jarrigeon of Université Gustave Eiffel. Fascinating papers on silence and disputed memories in cities, climate fiction and urban futures, a case study from Thailand, and an intervention from the president of Timescope, a company involved in urban storytelling through virtual reality and augmented reality.

How to negotiate absences and silences in urban history? How to map, study, and develop stories in an urban context? This hour-and-a-half session was far too short to do more than scratch the surface and I would have loved to have heard more from all of the participants.

Much of what was discussed connected with earlier work I have been involved in, e.g. in the co-edited book The Materiality of Literary Narratives in Urban History (2019), with  for example the article by Huday Tayob on “The Unconfessed Architecture of Cape Town”, which examines how literature can help complement archival silences and absences. Several of the approaches in my recent book The Narrative Turn in Urban Planning (2020) examine the complexities at work in examining and developing urban narratives in a historical and planning context.

Great to see colleagues at least virtually, hopefully next time in Paris we’ll meet in person!