A quick round up of some new books:
Description: Technological innovation has long threatened the printed book, but ultimately, most digital alternatives to the codex have been onscreen replications. While a range of critics have debated the benefits and dangers of this media technology, contemporary and avant-garde writers have offered more nuanced considerations.
Taking up works from Andy Warhol, Kevin Young, Don DeLillo, and Hari Kunzru, Archival Fictions considers how these writers have constructed a speculative history of media technology through formal experimentation. Although media technologies have determined the extent of what can be written, recorded, and remembered in the immediate aftermath of print’s hegemony, Paul Benzon argues that literary form provides a vital means for critical engagement with the larger contours of media history. Drawing on approaches from media poetics, film studies, and the digital humanities, this interdisciplinary study demonstrates how authors who engage technology through form continue to imagine new roles for print literature across the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Publication: December 2021 from University of Massachusetts Press.
Description: Archival literature is full of examples of what archivists do and how they do it. In Archival Virtue: Relationship, Obligation, and the Just Archives, Scott Cline raises questions that grapple with the meaning of what archivists do and, perhaps more important, who they are. Embracing the language of moral philosophy and theology, the book explores ideas of moral commitment, truth, difference, and just behavior in the pursuit of archival ideals. Cline proposes that if virtues are sources of power that inspire us to act justly on behalf of a better world, then archival virtue is a form of radical empowerment, one that obligates us to cherish and sustain human dignity, which is the essence of archival justice.
Publication: October 2021 from the Society of American Archivists.
Elusive Archives: Material Culture Studies in Formation, edited by Martin Brückner and Sandy Isenstadt.
Description: Taking cues from a wide variety of objects and their unusual circumstances, the essays that comprise Elusive Archives raise a common question: how do we study material culture when the objects of study are transient, evanescent, dispersed, or subjective, and as ethereal as distant memories? Such things would resist descriptive conventions and definitive value, scholarly or otherwise. Certainly, they would fall outside the taxonomic protocols that institutions, such as museums and archives, rely on to channel their acquisitions into meaningful collections. What holds these disparate things together here are the questions the authors in this volume ask of them. Placed into relief through carefully calibrated inquiry, objects that appear incongruent, inscrutable, or otherwise indistinct suddenly cohere. Simply put, each essay in its own way creates by means of its method a provisional collection of things, an elusive archive. Scattered matter then becomes fixed, however momentarily, within each author’s analytical framework rather than within the walls of an archive’s reading room or arrayed in so many cases along a museum corridor. With contingency itself underpinning them, the essays reverse the usual direction of scholarly inquiry by following the ways in which objects may be identified, gathered, arranged, conceptualized, and even displayed rather than by “discovering” artifacts in an ordered archive and then asking how they came to be there.
Publication: August 2021 from the University of Delaware Press.