The Waste Land Archive

Like Justin, before reading these articles, I had an outdated idea of what exactly an archive was. In Voss and Werner’s words, I had acknowledged the physical site, but ignored the “conceptual space.” Defining the archive this way made me rethink what exactly a literary work was. Voss and Werner quoted Bornstein saying that “literary work exists not in any one manifestation but in an archive that brings all the versions with claims upon our attention put together.” I think this is much easier to see in the digital age because we can do a quick google search and have tons of different editions or versions of a piece at our fingertips.

Specifically in regards to The Waste Land, I liked where Voss and Werner paraphrased Greetham saying, “that the archive proper is comprised of ‘garbage,’ ‘cultural scraps…leftovers…bits of memory.’ ” This made me immediately think of The Waste Land because of all the fragmentation there is. It’s like there’s these little ‘bits of memory’ put together into one seamless piece. We get biblical allusions juxtaposed with more recent allusions, yet it’s still one coherent piece. I also thought of The Waste Land when Voss and Werner say that each archive, as a construct, “reveals some things while concealing others.” As a part of the multimedia group, I found this to be especially true. When The Waste Land is just a printed text, the different voices that emerge are mostly concealed, but when you see a performance of it, or listen to a recording of Eliot reading it himself, those different characters become revealed.


In regards to performances of The Waste Land and different chracters' voices--this research into the poem has made it clear that the physical space of an archive can actually grow out from its conceptual space. Even though we traditionally picture archives as physical constructions, as you said, that is far from the complete truth. The printed page and performances alike are methods of accessing and modifying The Waste Land's conceptual space, and in turn the conceptual space inspires its physical manifestations. The Werner and Voss article makes a good point about this paradoxical nature of the archive; just as it preserves and destroys itself by committing apoptosis, so its physical and conceptual dimensions work together to create something greater than themselves.