NEW BOOK: What does it mean to ‘think through paper’?
New out from Palgrave: Paper, Materiality and the Archived Page. The emergence of digital technologies in the realm of archives has enlivened our understandings of archival materialities and lent a new intensity to our engagements with the archived page by prompting us to consider the potential of paper and the page in ways that we have hitherto largely ignored. Paper, Materiality and the Archived Page by Maryanne Dever responds to this provocation by setting out an approach or an orientation to ‘thinking through paper’. Critically, it questions what work the archived page does if it is more than an invisible or transparent support to text.
Three exemplary case studies are offered on the letters of Greta Garbo, the messy archival remains of Australian writer Eve Langley and the letters and manuscripts of English poet Valentine Ackland. Together they demonstrate how approaches grounded in concerns with materiality and matter can shift how we understand archival research and what we accept as archival ‘evidence’. They also reveal the emergent capacities of the paper page.
From Chapter One:
In developing the case studies that form the basis of this book, I approached the different archival collections with an openness to experiencing them as boxes and folders of paper that had been preserved first by individuals and then by institutions. I wanted to explore how paper mattered in each instance and how that mattering might add to—or even upset—more conventional understandings of these holdings and of the individuals who were both object and subject of them. It was not always easy in the process to articulate precisely what my research entailed or what my questions were, since seeking to experience collections in this way doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the straightforward framing of requests that institutions have come to expect from researchers and around which their collections and services are generally organized. Indeed, the logics of archives are not necessarily amenable to engagements with papers that value them for more than their immediate textual content, particularly given how such engagements potentially reorganize the customary nature of our knowledge-making practices in archives…In their address to questions of matter and materiality, the three case studies presented here do test in varying degrees what it is we can do in and with particular manuscript collections.
The book makes an important contribution to understanding why–even with increasingly sophisticated digital surrogates–working with original documents continues to be critically important. Moreover, it highlights how the materiality of archived documents may provide the basis for novel forms of knowledge-making and story-telling that we have hitherto overlooked. In particular, the book asks us to extend consideration beyond the text and toward what we might think of as post-hermeneutic engagements with affects, sensations, and a range of embodied experiences. Following this way of thinking, Paper, Materiality and the Archived Page proposes an expanded view of what matters in archival research and asks that we remain open to the results.