Writing Feverlets*

Curious about her critique of Derrida’s Archive Fever, I picked up a
copy of Carolyn Steedman’s Dust: The Archive and Cultural History from
Bird Library, recalling it from another patron who had checked it out (v. sorry
about that). I deal briefly with AF in Chapter Three. Steedman
makes the point that AF is less about archives than about Derrida’s
concern for the slippage of origins (a theme in his other work) and the
inseparability of psychoanalysis from Freud (and also Judaism). She
writes, "The Foreword [to AF] carried the main argument, about Freud’s
Jewish-ness, and the contribution of Jewish thought to the idea of the archive,
via psycho-analysis" (7). Basically, Steedman is suspicious of Derrida’s
characterization of the fever (as a frenzied pursuit of origins which do not
properly exist). She complains that the concept of the fever is degraded in
translation from Mal d’Archive, and then she enthusiastically claims the
sickness Derrida mocks: "Archive fever, indeed? I can tell you all about
Archive Fever!" (17). Dust undertakes this "all about-ness" at fever’s pitch;
Steedman, all the while, works to correct (or tune, at the very least) Derrida’s
glancing consideration of the archive left behind in his treatment of other
concerns (psychoanalysis, Freud, and so on).

Continue reading →

Double-Dutch

Derrida, in Archive Fever: “For the time being, I will pull from this web a single interpretive thread, the one that concerns the archive” (45).

I am trying to bring in just enough Derrida at the end of chapter three to capitalize on his insights about origination myths (not of psychoanalysis, for my purposes, but of composition studies), about archivization as the perpetual rearrangement of data, and about the ways transclusive texts and digitization re-distribute and also re-calibrate institutional (or disciplinary) memory. This and more in 6-8 pages.

It is as if the “single interpretive thread” drawn, like a jump-rope, from the web, is held on one end by Derrida and on the other end by Brand. In this section on “How Archives Learn,” I am beginning with the overlap of archives (entering the houses of the Archons) and architecture. The Derrida-Brand skipping is double-dutch, because a second thread–from Brand–is also suspended (another thread) in this early portion of the final section. Two jump-ropes, two jump-rope holders. In their complimentary orbits, the two ropes come close to touching, but they alternate flight paths just enough to avoid touching. And yet I feel intensely the danger of getting tangled up.

As of today, I am four pages (1200 words) into the 6-8 pages I have allowed myself for the section–a necessary cap if I am to keep the chapter under 50 pp. (jeeps, when I promised myself just 35 pp.; so much for control). What remains of the section, however, is well-planned; it will be close.

One challenge has been that there is so much more more more to develop here. For instance, do we have a disciplinarily (or even a post-disciplinarily) shared theory of archivization or memory? And how important is such a thing (not only for online archives or scholarly journals, but also for the preservation of course descriptions, syllabi, listserv exchanges, and so on)? With this, I am not asking about methodologies for dealing with archives of interest to R&C (or of history and historiography, for that matter), but rather of the life cycle of a more explicit class of disciplinary materials. Is it irresponsible (even unethical) not to have greater consensus for archivization or for the “scholar of the future” Derrida writes about? Perhaps.

Next I will return to the matter of learning by squaring with a couple of propositions from Brand. Finally, there will be something on Brand’s contrast between adaptation and “graceless turnover” and also on North’s statement from The Making of… that “Composition’s collective fund of knowledge is a very fragile entity” (3)–an excerpt I work with briefly in chapter one. Maybe some of this will have to be canned later on. There is always that possibility. The chapter is, after all, building up a discussion of tag clouds, data-mining, and folksonomy, which musn’t be abandoned in the concluding section.

An Address

Today’s

Strange Maps shows a map
of ‘the island’ in Lost, and in the
discussion, there is a question about naming, an observation that it is peculiar
that the island is un-named.  In one sense, the LAT-LON coordinates name
the island, locate it, provide it with an address (I would repeat those numbers
here but for the jinx). But the island is not named (Formosa!) in the
conventional sense of toponyms.

The map itself displays layers of plausible locations (colored dots) and
zones (rings) meant to match up with events over the first three seasons of the
program. I find the map interesting because it surfaces at the same time I am
reading and (sketchily) writing about archives, tagging and keywording, what
Derrida in Archive Fever calls the archontic dimension–consignment,
the gathering and piling on of signs.

What does the map archive? And where is the imaginary map between
commencement (sequential) and commandment (jussive)?

I don’t know.  I cannot settle this yet, and I am in no hurry. Lost
is not even airing again for a couple of months, and then, only if the writers’ strike is
resolved. Nevertheless, I am–for these few minutes–taken on a detour through
the map as a museum of Lost, of a topo-nomology embedded almost entirely in television (a
domain, like many others, about which we must continuously ask, What is lost (er,
diminished) in "legitimate hermeneutical authority" (3)?).