One concept I found running through our readings was the idea of proximity. In the opening of Archive Fever, Derrida stresses the importance of the archons (the magistrates, the law makers, guardians, the conceptualizers, interpreters) being in physical (topo?) proximity to the objects in the archive and that others do not have this proximity (I think this is the idea of politics—power-- and the archive). He refers to this as “localization” (2).

There is also the nomological aspect of the archive which I think means how the archive is ordered and governed (or maybe what order and governance emerges from the archive? Both and?). The concept of consignation touches on this as well. And as Derrida is talking about limits—what is included/excluded, interior/exterior—he’s essentially discussing the conceptual thinking and decision making about what is proximal to the archive. “Where does the outside commence?” (8). Which then sets up the the idea “No archive without outside” (11).

This is what struck me about Freud’s note about “nothing” that Derrida discusses (8) and the preface from Freud’s father (23). What is useless? What is exterior to the archive? These moments push on and challenge the limits of what should be included in the archive--just as the “Exergue” does. It serves as a paratext, a “prearchive a lexicon” (7). It’s a question of function, really—if they belong within the limits (if they are conceptually proximal to the archive which the implication is that they are), what do these moments/texts then do? This gets to the heart of the first 23 pages which is all about the tension between the death drive (erasure, loss, forgetting) and conservation for the future (preservation, continuance, remembrance). At once the archive is dependent on proximity (physical but more than that conceptual closeness) and distance; and the archive itself is the agent that creates its own proximity and its own distance. The space between is where the archive is born: “the archive takes place at the place of originary and structural breakdown of the said memory” (11).  The “breakdown” to which Derrida refers is a location, a place, where proximity is brought into question. The archive is it's own thing, really. It doesn’t solve the issue of breakdown because the death drive is important and necessary, nor does it inhabit/recover the “originary.” It’s close to the place of breakdown and the originary (proximal), but still separate from it.


Daniel, your parsing of Derrida's terminology helps immensely. I'm reminded of the vortex, Vortisicm's iconoclastic symbol. It has the "centripetal pull" (Drouin 283) that Derrida interprets the archive to have: this location between the death drive and (what I'll call haphazardly) the legacy drive. In using materials in Special Collections, oils from my hands seep into the paper, and contribute, through many hands and years, to acid damage of the material. I might turn a page and accidentally create a small tear in the page.

We physically and intellectually "break" the old things in the archive, or at least run the risk of doing so, so that we may posit why the archons authorized their preservation. That position destroys and creates: destroying the text as it ever could have been intended, but somehow creating a dada collage of the broken pieces. This whole semester, we've discussed how the modernist project is obsessed with this dialectic between preservation and destruction of tradition: Victorian norms, literary conventions, colonial oppression. I appreciate your thoughts here, not in the least because I got lost in the weeds reading Derrida. They inspire me to posit modernism as, above all, a series of archival tensions and conundrums, volumized in magazines.