Purdue University Graduate School
The Narratives of Infrastructure_The Simultaneous Building of Spaces through Civil Engineering and Literary Theory.pdf (1.35 MB)

The Narratives of Infrastructure: The Simultaneous Building of Spaces through Civil Engineering and Literary Theory

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posted on 2021-04-26, 01:19 authored by Allison Ann AtkinsonAllison Ann Atkinson

The issues facing scientists, engineers, and analysts of culture, particularly issues of climate change, resource usage, and space, are becoming increasingly complex. They cannot be solved through one academic discourse. My project proposes a blended discourse from the academic disciplines of civil engineering and literary theory. Using this discourse of Simultaneity, we can analyze the technical and cultural narratives which create the spaces in which we live. I begin with a common touchpoint of flows. Flows are used within literary theory to explain the formation of cultural spaces and are used within civil engineering to design and analyze physical spaces. Then, I conduct literary analyses of Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose, Ivan Doig’s Bucking the Sun, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to illuminate technical metaphors which shape a text, the similarities within the processes of changing cultural and physical spaces, and the similarities in novel narrative structure to the physical shape of engineered infrastructure. In this way, I show that constructing a blended discourse is possible and that by creating this discourse, we can explain a space’s state of existence from both a technical and a cultural perspective. Furthermore, we enable literature to speak from both a literary, cultural angle and from a technical, engineering angle. Thus, we engage in cross-disciplinary study to more adequately explain the phenomenon of experiencing where we place our bodies while our minds are at work. In the future, as suggested within this thesis, this blended discourse of Simultaneity can give us a methodical way of building spaces which are both technically feasible and culturally sound.


Degree Type

  • Master of Arts


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Robert Marzec

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Arkady Plotnitsky

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Thomas Rickert