Archives

A Brigade in Scribner's Magazine

I decided to take a look at Scribner's Magazine. The directory notes that "many bound copies remain"--and I was curious as to why that would be the case. Why would especially many copies of a particular publication remain? Something must be unique about the construction, the presentation, or the way it was preserved. The entire thing hasn't been digitized (although the magazine ran from 1870-1939, only the editions from 1910-1922 have been digitally archived on modjourn.org). Interesting that only the very latest twelve years have been converted into a digital format. The directory mentioned something about microfilm, so I looked into that, and apparently microfilm emerged as a method of document preservation in 1839 but didn't become widespread until after 1900. My guess is that magazines already imprinted on microfilm have proven easier to digitize, thus influencing the volumes we have access to in archives.

Scribner's contains a truly impressive amount of advertising. The information page about it on modjourn.org estimates the proportion of advertising to total pages to be about half, and I'd say that's correct. But the magazines are actually quite long--the first two I checked out were 150 pages and 230 pages. So, there was a solid 75-115 pages of solid content in each edition. Accompanying illustrations are of good quality and ubiquitous.

I found a ballad called "The Old Niagara" by Arthur Guiterman with drawings by John Walcott Adams on page 47 of the August 1912 (Volume 52, Issue 2) Scribner Magazine. The title refers to a fire engine. The way the illustrations are laid out around the metered text is fascinating. It's positioned between two other works that have a flavor of loss. That's intriguing, since Guiterman's ballad ends on a note of humor, and it's almost possessed by a kind of energy--the living spirit of a town rallying to fight a fire. I mean, there's loss in the ballad, but it's funny. The pieces in its area take wildly different perspectives on loss, forgetting, and destruction.

Steal This Archive

The Stolen Time Archive is just this really weird thing. But that's not bad. I like it. The most obvious way it matches up with our discussions is the way in which, as an archive, it rewards inquiry. You get out of it what you put into it. The designer and author notes on the website speak truly when they call its effect "emergent". Its peculiar style gives no obvious direction, even though the "clock in" and "clock out" buttons, as well as the tracing at the beginning, give the impression of there being an overarching mission with tasks to check off on it. It was also self-referential, and frighteningly self-aware--it was presented as though it knew it was being looked at. And call me crazy, but those android flyers draw attention to the issue of technology and how it relates to the human endeavor--or what we regard as a "human" endeavor--of exploring the world and organizing our knowledge.

I've mentioned in class that I can have serious issues with information overload if I'm not careful. (We've also referred to this as a sort of archive fever.) That was definitely happening to me in The Stolen Archive. I tried, therefore, to limit my search and pretend some sections didn't exist. I undoubtedly missed a great deal, so I look forward to hearing others' experiences with the archive. But this hyper-focus I used gave me an unexpected insight.

I titled this post the way I did because I believe this archive intends for us to focus in on whatever catches our interest within it and whatever we decide is our "mission". Everybody digs in and plunders it differently. Everybody hijacks The Stolen Archive and uses it for their own purposes. So if you look at the title and think, huh, why is it called that--The Stolen Archive? Who stole it?

Well, that's easy. You did.

The Stolen Time Archive and Recycling the Past

       Foucault says that the archive is “that which differentiates discourses in their multiple existence and specifies them in their own duration.” (The Historical A Priori and the Archive, 129) Foucault is saying that the archive recycles from the past and recasts it in the future. The Stolen Time Archive is doing just that; its very name invokes a sense of reclaiming the past. One of the projects I looked at was about the Irish potato famine. Entitled Mobile Figures and located under the mobility section (Volume 1 Issue 2), David Lloyd and Erik Loyer merge something from the past, the Irish Potato Famine, and forms it to present time, which led to the creation of an interactive ‘potato map.’ I think this is effective, but not as effective as it could be. Each of the other archives were about one pretty specific topic, but The Stolen Time Archive seems to be less pointed, which I think is a drawback. A lot of the things I saw on the Archive were really interesting, but I’m not sure how I would use them. And I don’t know if I would ever come across this archive when looking for something specific because it doesn’t seem to be a completely cohesive piece of work.

Archives and Accessibility

“An analysis of the tools you use and the way you are using them will often lead to discovering what is retarding your progress” –John Robert Gregg (I.C.b. in the Archive Index)

Borges’ Library of Babel calls to the forefront the question of accessibility: what happens when the knowledge is there but you just. plain. can’t. get. to. it? In his library, part of the problem is the sheer quantity of information; archives, in a way, can function as microcosms of this. Or, at least, the Stolen Time Archive seems to demonstrate this chaotic side of an archive. It definitely seemed as though there was information in the archive that I couldn’t access; things that it had decided to include but not to showcase. Foucault, I think, remarked that archives are never finished; as they sort out what to leave out and what to include - and, within that, what to feature and what to keep in storage - they’re constantly creating more information about choice, priorities, and specialization. It would be interesting to see what was left out of the Stolen Time Archive; in my short explorations of the site, it seemed a diverse group of art, writings, jokes, seriousness, and social commentary.

The Stolen Time Archive is effective in creating an experience – much more of an organic encountering of various materials than a scholarly presentation – but I didn’t find it that effective for learning and utilization. Perhaps it’s the tendency to click around on an unfamiliar website until something happens,  in which case the problem would be more on my end than the archive’s. The quote I excerpted at the beginning suggests that when things like the Stolen Time Archive, any other archive, or something even as fanciful as the Library of Babel don’t serve our purposes, we should examine our interactions along with diagnostics of the tools in order to best interact with archives.

To Make Work out of Art, and Art out of Work

The Stolen TIme Archive was incredible.  I was incredibly confused when I first got to the page, because whatever I was expecting, it wasn't that.  Something that really struck me while reading the author's statement was when Gambrell said "we mean to ask you to think hard about what it means to make work out of art, and to make art out of work".  While going through the archive, I kept seeing how work was made into art over and over again.  The whole idea that Gambrell put into action in The Stolen Time Archive is really cool.  

I'm definitely still struggling to understand all that we've been discussing and reading about archives and archival theory, but Gambrell's hands-on project helped to make it somewhat easier to understand.  At the end of the project, I noticed that there was a page that tracked my mouse's movement throughout the entire time I was in the archive, which is one of the moments that really struck me as art.  What Gambrell has complied in her archive is more than just documents.  There are documents, pictures, posters, comic strips, books, etc, which we have discussed in class when speaking of digital archives.  It's not just a library full of books, the archive is so much more. 

Archives, Foucault, and Eliot

As several of my classmates have said, Foucault’s descriptions map readily onto The Waste Land. Foucault addresses his focus, The Temptation, as “a monument to meticulous erudition” (89), a descriptor which perfectly suits The Waste Land as well. Within Eliot’s work, every line can be examined, unpacked, put back together, and deconstructed again and his attention to detail – no wasted words, every word significant – is amazing. The similarities continue as Foucault talks about “words spoken in the past…the amassing of minute facts, monuments reduced to infinitesimal fragments” (90-91), which calls to mind Eliot’s mythic method and the significant-yet-short references present in The Waste Land (ie, the quick reference to Mylae in line 70).

Key, I think, to Foucault’s treatment of archives are “the virtue of its essential relationship to books” and the ability “to extend the space that existing books can occupy” (91). I’m still trying to fully understand his point – especially the diagram found later in the essay – but I find his ideas about intertextuality and the constant referencing among texts fascinating. Finally, I was struck by the way he describes The Temptation as “the book of books,” as the description applies just as much to The Waste Land: “It unites in a single ‘volume’ a series of linguistic elements that derive from existing books and that are…the repetition of things said in the past. The library is opened, catalogued, sectioned, repeated, and rearranged in a new space” (105). This is The Temptation, this is The Waste Land, this is an archive.

Variety of archives

I was intrigued by the way archives are presented in these two articles; Voss and Werner explain them as both conceptual and physical spaces, while Foucault describes how The Temptation seres as an archive for all the other creations it refers to. I would have liked to have read The Temptation before Foucault, article, but Foucault makes the unexpected function of the book as an archive for its fellows clear. He phrases his point in the following way: "it unites in a single "volume" a series of linguistic elements that derive from existing books and that are, by virtue of their specific documentary character, the repetition of things said in the past. The library is opened, catalogued, sectioned, repeated, and rearranged in a new space" (105).

Books automatically refer to one another. It is impossible to write a work in isolation. Just as writers say "nothing is original", they might also say the one thing that cannot be done is to create a work that is not connected into the existing larger literary tradition. Foucault notes that the only originality in The Temtation is in its organization of the elements it includes. This is the problem all writers face and struggle to overcome--in an effort to create original, revolutionary work--until they realize that interconnectedness is not the enemy, and learn to embrace it. Archives are not only collections, but catalogues of our memories, and the way in which each archives integrates its components creates a new component in the collective totality of knowledge.

It could be said that one story is told by the Library of Congress--as a physical and conceptual space where on one hand children are forbidden to even touch the books, and where on the other all things must be recorded for current to future generations. There is the story of the library at Alexandria, of the things that we speculate were lost as well as those that survived. There is the library--and book, all at once--of the internet, which no human soul living today can ever fully read in its entirety. Under a broader understanding of archives, archives can be "books" just as books can serve as "archives". The only difference is a matter of scale.

Archives

I'm without a doubt a dumb blonde when it comes to technology.  I have never really taken the time to understand why computers work, or how a thumb drive can store my documents and pictures.  Werner and Voss's article about archives helped to illustrate technology for me at least a little bit.  When I hear the word "archive" I generally think of really old manuscripts or really long lists of things from an archeological dig.  Archive just sounds like a word to describe old things.  It doesn't sound like a tech-y word at all.  But archive can describe so many things, from libraries full of old books to everything I've ever written or stored on a computer.  Werner and Voss speak of lost archives, "when the leaves of hundreds of illuminated manuscripts, loosed... like butterflies in the courtyard of Oxford", and I can't help but think of the Library of Alexandria.  When the library was burned down, there were so many manuscripts and scrolls that were lost to the world because there were no other copies.  To think that we could be facing that kind of intelligence loss due to internet failure had never occured to me before reading this article. 

The Waste Land is an archive in many forms.  It has been printed as a book, it has been digitized on numerous websites, ebooks, apps, etc., and reading each one is different.  Reading The Waste Land in printed book form gives the poem a physicality that it doesn't have when reading it on a screen, while reading electronic versions of the poem gives it an accessibility and new life that it doesn't have on paper.  Different mediums have different effects on a work, even if the exact same words are used.  The fact that Eliot's poem is archived in numerous different ways, I think, links to the importance of his work.  Should the internet fail, there are still printed copies of his work and similarly, should libraries be burned like Alexandria's, the poem is still archived electronically.  

We live in a world of so many different technological opportunities, and I'm really excited to continue learning more about them this semester.

Symbiotic Creatures: Archives of History and the Study of Literature

In fully understanding any work of literature, a lack of historical textualization makes an understanding of the work nearly impossible.  Throughout the process of tracing T.S. Eliot's references and allusions in "The Waste Land," the historical mileu of Great Britain at the time, and of European history preceding the period allowed a greater understanding of the motivations and inspirations for the text.  

Paul J. Voss and Marta L. Werner's introduction to the contributors of Towards a Poetics of the Archive underscores these contributor's tactics and "archival fever"--where they find the archive to be most relevant to their scholarship.  For me, Cyndia Susan CLegg's "archive fever" was catching, in her argument for "a more symbiotic relationship between history and literary studies...[because] historiands can benefit from a  ore sophisticated notion of 'textuality' while literary critics could (and should) become more aware of historical methods."  As an English and History double major, I cannot help but find this idea laudable, and in fact, to go without saying, really.  History and literature are intertwined and are, in many (MANY) ways, much the same.  For Eliot, for example, he formulates fragments of literature to explain the sentiment of his time, formulating an embodiment of the "nervous breakdown of his generation," as Dr. Drouin has indicated.  

After reading Foucault's "Fantasia of the Library," and his description of Flaubert's The Temptation of Saint Anthony, I think it is also crucial to enlist the author's personal and literary history as well.  While Flaubert borrowed his text of the Temptation from a multitude of sources, and "dreamed" through these texts, the Temptation, in turn becomes historical evidence in the archive towards understanding Flaubert's other works, having been his first and longest lasting development.  I find it especially compelling to look at each work of an author through the lens of the rest, because an understanding of an author's world view gives new meaning to what he/she produces.  

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