1st Edition

Time and the Museum Literature, Phenomenology, and the Production of Radical Temporality

By Jen A. Walklate Copyright 2023
    210 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Time and the Museum: Literature, Phenomenology, and the Production of Radical Temporality, is the first explicit in-depth study of the nature of museum temporality.

    It argues as its departure point that the way in which museums have hitherto been understood as temporal in the scholarship - as spaces of death, othering, memory, and history – is too simplistic, and has resulted in museum temporality being reduced to a strange heterotopia (Foucault) – something peculiar, and thus black boxed. However, to understand the ways in which museum temporalities and timescapes are produced, and the consequences that these have upon display and visitor response, is crucial, because time is itself a political entity, with ethical consequence.

    Time and the Museum highlights something we all experience in some way – time – as a key ethical and political feature of the museum space. Utilizing the fields of literature and phenomenology, the book examines how time is experienced and performed in the public areas of three museum spaces within Oxford – the Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers, and Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Using concepts such as shape, structure, form, presence, absence, authenticity, and aura, the book argues for a reconsideration of museum time as something with radical potential and political weight. It will appeal to academics and postgraduate students, especially those engaged in the study of museums, culture, literature, and design.

    Part I Contextualizing: Introduction: Time; Chapter One: Frame; Part II Temporal Shapes:  Introduction: Contours in Time; Chapter Two: Linearity; Chapter Three: Non-Linearity; Part III Temporal Atmospheres: Introduction: Time and Spirit; Chapter Four: Presence ; Chapter Five: Absence; Chapter Six: Authenticity; Chapter Seven: Auracity; Part IV Consequences and Meanings: Conclusion: After-Words; Coda: In Extremis; Bibliography; Index.


    Jen A. Walklate (University of Aberdeen) is a museologist, historian, and literary theorist, studying the intersections between museums and other cultural media, including literature, drama, and comics. She utilizes novelistic and poetic forms and concepts to open new ways of considering visitor experience in museum contexts, and literature as an analytical framework for understanding the construction and performance of museums. Drawing upon this study, she is looking at new ways to create more representative, inclusive, egalitarian, and intellectually open institutions.