On the Run, and Running to Return: Patri-archon, Parricide, and Mneme

In Archive Fever, Jacques Derrida moves readers through an impressive lexicon to deconstruct the trouble with and attraction of archiving. The image which seems to best capture, or at least repeats in my mind as I struggle through the Freudian Impression, is that of the prodigal son. The intimacy afforded by the psychoanalytic interpretation of the impulse to archive seems to lend itself to this interpretation.
For a well-regarded visual version of the essential biblical allegory, consider Rembrandt’s:
The muse of memory seems, as Derrida explains, to impel one toward an inescapable nostalgia for what came “before, before,” a returning to origins and a paternal guidance and covering, in spite of an intervening impulse to live father-free in the compartmentalization of archive categorization, an act which results in a severing of fruit from its tree (that destructive force referred to in Fever’s first pages), a child from his or her parent. Perhaps this is the “mal d’archive” (Derrida 91) to which Derrida refers, with its requisite driven passion and direction. Its phenomenal qualities, however, resist easy definition as to what makes “outside,” suspending disbelief to a rigorous level.  Nevertheless, Derrida’s conclusion to the book offers a somewhat recuperated reverence in careful consideration of what we might continue to preserve as “secret,” in spite of the captured history, chronicled history of deaths, lives.
While strict limits are resisted, they do seem to aid a this-side-of-chaos reading of a body of works. For example, to use the prodigal son as an example, how many “versions” of that story exist? Why is it so popular to return to, even by now established masters of painting? Moving beyond the Freudian principles at work, the archivist can study the yearning of the son to be taken in by the father in myriad ways, in spite of the youth’s desire to deny paternity, responsibility, etc. One might say that muse has its own Harpie-like qualities, but also ones of re-genesis.

Digitization of archives

I was looking this week at UCL's George Orwell archive (the link button isn't working on this computer, so here is the URL in full: http://digitool-b.lib.ucl.ac.uk:8881/R/DGYPJAY81EL3LKJRY7K2IS2URL5N44MQ1YYYVSH3QPYPXNTYFS-03929?local_base=ORWELL), and thought it posed some interesting problems in terms of digitizing print archives. As Derrida says in relation to digital archivization,

Was it not at this very instant that ... I pushed a certain key to "save" a text undamaged, in a hard and lasting way, to protect marks from being erased, so as to ensure in this way salvation and indemnity, to stock, to accumulate, and, in what is at once the same thing and something else, to make the sentence available in this way for printing and reprinting, for reproduction? Does it change anything that Freud did not know about the computer? And where should the moment of suppression or of repression be situated in these new models of recording and impression, or printing? (25-6)

What I'm curious about here is a few things. First, does it change anything that Orwell did not know about the computer? What I mean is, particularly with the early manuscripts and his assorted notebooks, Orwell presumably had established an archive of his own by storing these documents. For presenting them online in this form, UCL has had to arrange the archive under headings easily accessible to the viewer, such as "political diaries," "personal diaries," "literary notebooks," etc. Furthermore, the texts seem to have gone under further arrangement by an archon in the interim, as this page shows: http://digitool-b.lib.ucl.ac.uk:8881/view/action/nmets.do?DOCCHOICE=100755.xml&dvs=1331566918033~763&locale=en_US&search_terms=Political%20diaries&adjacency=%20&VIEWER_URL=/view/action/nmets.do?&DELIVERY_RULE_ID=5&usePid1=true&usePid2=true The previous archon here has scrawled "From the Notebooks of George Orwell," as well as scribbled out Orwell's dates in pencil and added their own. In the digital archivization, as with Derrida's sentence, the "save" button has been hit now, and the work remains as it is. So, not only has Orwell's archive been re-archived at least twice, but it has now been preserved in electronic form as a sort of definitive version.

The shift in form from a print archive to a digital archive, I feel, raises these questions: what does this appropriation of the archive do to the works it presents (as in, are we having new meanings established by the arrangements of these works in a new archive)? And, what sense of authenticity does the digitized archive hold, bearing in mind that these items have been removed from their context and subsequently had notes scrawled on them by others?

Internal Wastage in The Waste Land

  I'm interested in what Voss and Werner meant by "internal forces of wastage" in the archive and how these relates to an article I read a few years ago about The Waste Land.  Voss and Werner argue that the archive is "comprised of material 'citations'" that establish the archive's "proximity to a loss– of other citations, of citations of otherness" (ii).  The Waste Land is similarly comrpised of mostly allusions and citations as well.  Eliot, however, often changes the allusions in a slight unexpected way.  For example, "April is the cruellest month" alludes to and adapts Chaucer's original line.  I think there's a interesting dynamic between the use of an altered allusion.  Maud Ellman argues in "A Sphinx without a Secret" that the allusions in the poem function as the voice of dead poets and authors who dominate the text and replace the speaker/author's voice.  She, with this argument, reads the poem as the Fisher-King's failure to regenerate and end the cycle of waste.  From what I remember, she doesn't spend much time discussing the altered states of most of the allusions (I could be completely wrong on this).  To me, these changes represent "the breakdown of the archive's integrity that is most visible during moments of great documentary shifts" (Voss iii).  I think this technique also points towards Eliot's essay on the Individual talent that Kent's already mentioned.  Do the changed allusions still represent wastage, or does Eliot make them something new, something fertile? 

Trees and Tarr

 I really liked Moretti's "Trees" chapter and the way it illustrated the shift from dialogical narrative of Dostoevsky to the stream of consciousness of Joyce and other modernists.  Moretti argues that Figure 33 (p84), "his tree of free indirect style in modern narrative," foregrounds the transition from the "doxa of public opinion" to "the secret, unconscious layers of psychic life" (88).  Although there are a few problems with this approach, I'm pretty much on-board with this idea and I think it matches some of the discussions from Modernism and New Media.  In short, the development of photographs and film perfected the "objective" visual portrayal of objects, which allowed (or forced) literature to seek new areas that cameras could not reach, the psyche.

Lewis's Tarr (the Klein version) suspiciously resists the interior monologues and streams of consciousness that the other modernists were using.  His plot depends on dialogues, and there are only a few instances of brief, interior thoughts in the novel.  Following Moretti's argument, the conversational form of the book reveals that Frederick Tarr, despite his best efforts to be an artist, is actually a "well-socialized individual" like "Austen's heroines" (82).  Lewis, in this way, further satirizes Tarr's "bourgeois–bohemian" lifestyle.  I haven't read anything by Flaubert, but Moretti's description of his character-type whose "inner space is unknowingly colonized by the common places of public opinion" matches my understanding of Tarr's inner space (82).  For me, this clarifies the opening scenes of Tarr.  We follow Frederick as he seeks others' opinions.  His confrontations with Bertha also seem like negotiations (he says battles), which are social exchanges instead of interior subjectivity.  The absence of interiority in Frederick Tarr exposes his inabilities to be an artist.

Versioning and Bibliographic Code

 According to the project's website, the Modernist Versions Project will allow students and scholars to "digitize modernist texts" and, if I understood it correctly, help "build an integrated environment for digitial ingestion" through this collaboration.  I'm interested to know more specifically how this project will allow others to add to the project.  Will the coordinators accept certain versions of a text and not others, or will they be as inclusive as possible?  What will be the guidelines for removing an upload from the project?

On her versioning page of X-Ray, Clement looks at the extant versions of the poem with "the published text."  Her versioning highlights the changes the poem (linguistic code) went through before it was published.  By ending with the published text, she understandably suggests that this text is somehow finalized and definitive.  I might be missing the point of versioning, but will the MVP allow versioning/juxtapositioning of multiple published texts?  This would emphasize the changes that the bibliographic code goes through when it's published.  

I went to a talk this weekend, where the speaker argued that a poem's original publication (a Frances E. Watkins Harper poem in a pamphlet) revealed its original purpose: contributing to an existing dialogue about abolition and slavery.  Dr. McGill, the speaker, argued that later publications obscured the poem's commentary on slavery by isolating it in a book.  Her argument seemed to juxtapose the two texts the same way versioning does.  For this reason, I'm curious to know if the MVP will allow multiple published versions of a text or follow Clement's model. 

Distance Reading and Magazine Reading

 Having read the Moretti and Clement pieces, it occurs to me that distance reading and graphing larger sets of texts has a lot in common with what Dr. Latham and Scholes and Wulfman describe in the reading of magazines.  In the way that a magazine acts as a storehouse for elements that have identifiable coherences and differences, distance reading larger corpuses of works could function in a similar way.  In discussing the way concepts "emerge" in the study of magazines, Dr Latham says: 

"a particular kind of complexity that arises not from the individual elements in a system, but only from their interaction.  These interactions pose a particular challenge, because they cannot be predicted or quantified and thsu cannot be described or computed. Instead, they reside in a complex series of feedback loops within a system, each changing and shifting the other" (15). 

Is it fair to say that a similar type of complexity emerges across larger samples of texts such as what is generally thought of as, just as an example, the canon of Victorian novels?  Does the fact that there is no editor change the situation?  Does distance reading produce the same type of effect as Dr. Latham describes in magazines: "For the editors and scholars of magazines ... emergence provides a powerful way of thinking about how all those textons that we can mark and measure in a text manage to produce something more than the sum of their parts: an ergodic, interstitial, contingent array of meanings" (15).  

I think the absence of a managing (in all the senses of the word) editor actually provides a more interesting set of critical and scholarly possibilities.  Tracking the similarities across texts that aren't consciously arranged or necessarily written with a common audience in mind could reveal some interesting things about how information moves from one type of genre, form, and time period to another.  It brings to mind the concept of the meme as Richard Dawkins described it.  Rather than thinking of discrete authors writing from some wellspring of creativity, I think analyses such as these would reveal the recursivity of elements from one text to another.  Actually, this seems to be just circling back to what we already do as scholars of a particular period so perhaps the comparison is conservative more than anything.  

Goof on Presentation

Hey guys,

I want to correct myself from my presentation yesterday. The passage with the soap in Bloom's pocket (the one with "Catch them once with their pants down. Never forgive you after" is in fact in "Hades" and not "Lotus Eaters." The other passage I mentioned as in "Hades" is actually in "Lotus Eaters." Sorry about that.


Distant Reading and the Printing Press

Moretti’s argument for the shifts of genre popularity and historical “rhythm” of publishing seems to coincide with Scholes and Wulfman’s article.  Moretti, quoting Mannheim’s essay, says “a rhythm in the sequence of generations… is far more apparent in the realm of series libres–  free human groupings such as salons and literary circles– than in the realm of the institutions” (21).  Although Moretti hesitates to accept this generational theory, he admits that it’s the only one currently that makes sense of the collected data.  This reminded me of Scholes and Wulfman’s understanding of the development of new artist, who “learned the virtue of being grouped in schools and movements” during the rise of periodicals (35).  I’m interested to know if there are significant differences in this rhythm with the increased speed and ease of press machines and others aspects of modernity.  Moretti’s graphs suggest genres grew and lost popularity in a successive order, which creates the appearance of a single trajectory showing one genre peaking one at a time.  Does modernity allow the possibility for multiple genres to peak simultaneously or does the same rhythm continue?  If the former, how does this change our distant reading of the pattern of genres?


Quantifying genre

Moretti's chapter on "Graphs" offered some interesting readings on the "hidden tempo" of literary history (29). The graphs he shows, however, seemed problematic to me for a few reasons, one of which I'll focus on here.

The British novelistic genres graph (19) seemed particularly troublesome. As Moretti says, for his quantifying of the data of genre he "decided to rely entirely on other people's work" (18). Nothing wrong with that, in theory, as that disclaimer goes with the graph and informs one's reading of its meaning. Because of the nebulous nature of the definitions of literary genre, however, this seems to be lacking the most crucial data--the criteria that the individual scholars used in classifying literary history under those genres (i.e. the recurring data, like character types, plot arcs, motifs, etc). What would surely be more useful would be, perhaps, a scatter graph of the appearances of these recurring data that appear in novels from the time period, rather than the genre classifications that were placed onto them afterwards. For instance, having one color dot for the recurring instances of the depiction of the French Revolution, rather than grouping them all in dubious interpretive clusters like "Military Novel" or "Historical Novel"; a colored dot for the character of the "fool"; etc. It would then be possible to identify recurring data more easily, thus enabling the reader, if they wished, to THEN place genre definitions, with greater precision than before. The grouping, by the scholars Moretti consulted, of novels under genres is, I would say, something similar to what Moretti is doing with his graph: trying to interpret literary history in a system. In other words, what a graph of genre seems to be doing is offering interpretations of an interpretation of interpretations.