Keynote speakers

Profile_Barbara Eckstein-min.jpg

Barbara Eckstein retired from the English Department at the University of Iowa in 2019. While employed there and at universities in New Orleans, she engaged in teaching, collaborations, administration, and scholarship in the areas of sustainability and US racial or ethnic minority literature and culture.


She has maintained a life-long interest in the complex processes that produce space. She is the author of The Language of Fiction in a World of Pain (UPennsylvania Press 1990), Sustaining New Orleans (Routledge 2006), and has co-edited with Jim Throgmorton Story and Sustainability (MIT 2003). She enjoyed sharing a draft of her essay "Empires' City-Building and the Intervention of Aupaumut's 1792 Books" with the City Scripts group. That essay now awaits publication in the journal Urban History (Oxford).

Retirement has enabled her increased participation in the work of Citizens Climate Lobby and the United Nations Association USA and in the restorative justice work of a local prison choir.

Cities are always invested in implementing their visions of the future. Change must be envisioned, charted, argued for, budgeted, projected, and designed. A possible future is thereby pitted against the resources of the present and the past. The impetus of urban change is, so our understanding, dependent on the art of representation. Thus, planning schemes ideally are embedded stories, and literary texts and imagery pervade our understanding of urban realities, complexities, and possibilities. The pragmatism and literariness of urban texts – in their discursiveness as well as purposeful application – fuse to create one convincing story of change.

For long, Barbara Eckstein and James Throgmorton have not only understood these dynamics, but their scholarship has also informed what is termed the “story turn” in urban planning. Urban space is storified space – with all its social, political, cultural, administrative, and historical entanglements. We are grateful for the opportunity to have a share in their work, learn from their experiences as literary and urban planning scholars, and narrow down on this symposium’s hypothesis with them: that urban futures are scripted.

Profile_James Throgmorton_edited_edited.png

James A. (Jim) Throgmorton received a B.A. in history from Notre Dame in 1966, a M.S. in community development from the University of Louisville in 1972, and a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from UCLA in 1983.


He taught urban and regional planning at the University of Iowa for 24 years until retiring as an emeritus professor in 2010. His scholarly work has focused primarily on the roles of rhetoric and persuasive storytelling in planning, especially with regard to making city-regions more just and ecologically sustainable.


In his role as a scholar, he has written Planning as Persuasive Storytelling (1996), Co-Crafting the Just City (forthcoming), and dozens of articles in scholarly journals and edited books. In collaboration with Barbara Eckstein, he also co-edited Story and Sustainability (2003).


As an active resident of Iowa City, Iowa, he has written dozens of op-eds for local newspapers. He served as an elected member of Iowa City's city council from late-1993 through 1995 and again from 2012 through 2019. During the last four years of his council term he also served as mayor. As mayor, he vigorously led efforts to foster a more inclusive, just, and sustainable city.


       Watch the symposium's opening keynote      "Turning the Spatial Planners’ Story in a New Direction" by James Throgmorton

Part One of the Symposium's Opening Keynote

Part Two of the Symposium's Opening Keynote