Ordinary Walking, Ordinary Writing: Some Thoughts in Preparation for an Essay as Yet Unwritten

  • Naomi Stead Department of Architecture at Monash University


Naomi Stead pursues a theoretical inquiry into the relationship between writing and walking based on author’s previous ficto-critical texts based in Stockholm, Sydney and Brisbane. The text was inspired by a small article that appeared in the daily newspaper in Melbourne, Australia in March 2018, which described the effect of different linguistic formulations used by phone dispatchers at ambulance stations, when someone telephoned in need of urgent medical attention. The story was about the difference between the dispatcher asking ‘what happened’ – which tended to send the caller off into a longwinded narrative account with much extraneous detail – and when the dispatcher asked ‘what’s happened’ – which caused the caller to report, quickly and directly, the sequence of events that had led to the medical emergency. The difference between these two modes of communication – the division of ‘what’ and ‘what’s,’ the single letter – was measured in long seconds, even minutes, and could easily be the difference between life and death.

This text is introduced by a reading compiled by Robin Wilson


References Main Text:

James Joyce, Ulysses, edited with an introduction by Jeri Johnson (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1993 [1922]).

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (London: Penguin, 1996 [1925]).

Iain Sinclair, Lights Out for the Territory: 9 Excursions in the Secret History of London (London: Granta Books, 1997).

W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, translated by Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998).

Alison Stenton, ‘Spatial Stories: Movement in the City and Cultural Geography’, in: Clare Bryant and Susan E. Whyman (eds.), Walking the Streets of Eighteenth-Century London: John Gay’s Trivia (1716) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 62-73.

Ross Chambers, Loiterature (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999). 7 Francesco Careri, Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice (Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2005).

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (London: Verso, 2001), 173-174.

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts, (Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2015), 22 138

Jane Rendell, Art and Architecture: A Place Between (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006), 188. 11 Ibid.

Naomi Stead, ‘If on a Winter’s Day a Tourist: Writing the Phenomenological Experience of Stockholm’, Architectural Theory Review, vol. 14 (2009) no. 2, 108-118.

Soile Veijola and Eeva Jokinen, ‘The Body in Tourism’, Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 11 (1994), 125-151.

Naomi Stead, ‘Writing the City, or, The Story of a Sydney Walk’, NORA – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, vol. 18 (2010) no. 4, 226-245.

References Reading:

Kim Gurney, The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City (London, Palgrave, 2015), 58.

Eric de Bruyn, ‘Alfaville, or the Utopics of Mel Bochner’, The Grey Room, no. 10 (2003), 76-111: 87.

Louis Marin, ‘Critical Remarks on Enunciation: The Question of the Present in Discourse’, in: Werner Hamacher and David E. Welbery (eds.), On Representation: Louis Marin (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 373-387.

Author Biography

Naomi Stead, Department of Architecture at Monash University

Naomi Stead is Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at Monash University, Australia. She is also Adjunct Professor in Architecture at the University of Queensland, and past President of the Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand. Her research interests lie in architecture’s cultures of re/production, mediation, and reception. She is an award-winning and widely published architecture critic, having written more than fifty commissioned feature and review articles in professional magazines over the past decade, and is presently a columnist for the San Francisco-based Places Journal, where she writes essays on concepts and mythologies within and without architecture. She is an experienced qualitative researcher, having undertaken a range of research projects assessing the social, cultural, and architectural significance of built architectural projects. She was the leader of the ARC Linkage project ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership,’ which led to the co-founding (with Justine Clark and others) of Parlour, an activist group advocating for greater gender equity in architecture.

How to Cite
STEAD, Naomi. Ordinary Walking, Ordinary Writing. Writingplace, [S.l.], n. 3, p. 131-147, dec. 2019. ISSN 2589-7691. Available at: <https://journals.open.tudelft.nl/writingplace/article/view/4356>. Date accessed: 28 jan. 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.7480/writingplace.3.4356.