Archive

The word "archive" Derrida notes comes from the Greek arkheion "initially a house, a domicile, an address, the residence of of the superior magistrate, the archons, those who commanded" (Archive Fever 2).
In "Towards a Poetics of the Archive," Voss and Werner contend "To archive documents is to enclose them in a complex of protected spaces, including stone or metal boxes, or in folders between spaces of acid free paper…The archive preserves and reserves, protects and patrols, regulates and represses. The architecture of the archive and the sentinels who control access to its interior suggest that the conservation and transmission of knowledge has been, at least historically, the prerogative of a few chosen agents, of a coterie of privileged insiders" (i).

If the archive has traditionally been a site of legitimation, a site patrolled by a select few, how does the electronic archive in general and the wiki in particular confirm or undercut this notion of the archive? What new questions does the electronic archive raise? How are the borders between the inside-the-archive and the outside-the-archive constructed in electronic form, and who now has the privilege to patrol such borders?

Later in their essay, Voss and Werner note "On the cusp of the twenty first century-now-we speak of an ex-static archive, of an archive not assembled behind stone walls but suspended in a liquid element behind a luminous screen; the archive becomes a virtual repository of knowledge without visible limits, an archive in which the material now becomes immaterial" (ii).

Is the electronic form really immaterial? Isn't it only a different kind of materiality? What does it mean to be without visible limits? The screen has visible limits. This page has visible limits.

Maybe Derrida more effectively addresses the materiality of the archive, electronic or otherwise. And you'll note this is a book historical act on his part, an act of book history. He writes "the said archival technology no longer determines, will never have determined, merely the moment of the conservational recording, but rather the very institution of the archivable event. It conditions not only the form of the structure that prints, but the printed content of the printing: the pressure of the printing, the impression, before the division between printed and the printer…Archivable meaning is also and in advance codetermined by the structure that archives" (Archive Fever 18).

So Derrida returns to the original act of archiving, back to the cradle of printing, the incunables.

He says himself "It begins with the printer."

The archive.

Begins with the printer. The law of the printer. The laying down of the impression. The printer's mark is literally the impression in the text. "The archivization," he writes "produces as much as it records the event" (Archive Fever 17).

Which is to say that the form of this wiki creates as much as it documents the archive of the intersection of critical theory and book history

It enacts it. But in order to make visible the creation of the archive by way of material form, perhaps we have to dream it otherwise. Derrida challenges us to do just that when he asks us to re-imagine the history of the psychoanalytic archive, which is to say to re-image psychoanalysis itself: "One can dream or speculate about the geo-techno-logical shocks which would have made the landscape of the psychoanalytic archive unrecognizable for the past century if, to limit myself to these indications, Freud, his contemporaries, collaborators and immediate disciples, instead of writing thousands of letters by hand, had had access to MCI or AT&T telephonic credit cards, portable tape recorders, computers, printers, faxes, televisions, teleconferences, and above all E-mail" (17). He speaks of "the major and exceptional role (exceptional in the history of scientific projects) played at the center of the psychoanalytic archive by handwritten correspondence…One must consider the historical and nonaccidental reasons which have tied such an institution, in its theoretical and practical dimensions, to postal communication and to its particular form of mail, to its substrates, to its average speed: a handwritten letter takes so many days to arrive in another European city, and nothing is ever independent of this delay" (17).

But what does this mean for the project at hand, for the merging of book history and critical theory? Would such a merging perform book history on critical theory? Would it analyze such a delay, a delay that is central to the production of critical theory? If literature can be a way into critical theory and not the other way around, how can literature be a way into critical theory and book history? We could envision this new writing, this new way, as a constant maneuvering, a dance between literature and critical theory and book history. Literature at the site of this merging.

Untitled by Dave Muller

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