All ruins are narratives. All narratives are ruins. All narratives are co-produced

Keech, D and Jones, O (2014) All ruins are narratives. All narratives are ruins. All narratives are co-produced. In: RGS-IBG Annual Conference, 26 - 29 August 2014, Kensington Gore, London.

Official URL:


Ruins are, quite clearly, narratives. They are the ‘bones’ left once the soft tissue of some earlier everyday (materialised) life (mundane or momentous) has past. They speak narratives of such pasts, even if the speech is sometimes faint, distorted, fragmented, in some lost tongue. To see the ruins of Tintern Abbey (made famous by Worsdworth) is to stand at the threshold of a (part ruined) labyrinth of narratives – “If the majestic prospect of a ruined 12th-century church [ ] triggers the meditation, the landscape's fourth dimension—time as an almost palpable presence—dominates it”. Of course bodies such as the National Trust seek to lead us over that threshold. Despite our claim that all narratives are ruins, be they fictional or otherwise (a doubtful distinction), narratives cannot ever fully recreate the lived lives they recount. They are fleeting, partial, spasmodic glimpses of such, stitched artfully together in some narrative regime or other. Partial also in that they always preclude – but allude to (deliberately or otherwise) what was always before and what is always to come. In Wordworth’s contemplation of Tintern Abbey, the notions of ruin as narrative and narrative as ruin intertwine as he ponders his past – his narrative as present in the ruins that are memory. Further, narratives are inevitably co-produced in complex ways, first by the agencies of others, things and places that worm into the narrative though the host creator, and secondly in their consumption: a story must be heard in order to live. Ruins – architectural and natural – are the contemporary settings for stories of lived temporal isolation, as shown by the artist Stephen Turner. We are taken with Serres’s notion of narratives which sees them as portals into labyrinthine lived time, in which one can move forward, back, graft, bifurcate in rhizomatic fashion. We will illustrate the general direction of thinking here with references to authors and film makers who have constructed narrative with(in) ruins – of one type or another- Sebald, Peake, Lynch.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: School of Sciences
Date Deposited: 26 May 2015 12:20
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:40
URI / Page ID:
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)