Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Archiving for Feminist and Critical Consciousness

Dear Seminar Members:

... and a final few questions for the research log, inspired by yesterday's unpacking of selected passages from Kirsch's chapter on feminist research at a "crossroads":

1) Based on what you understand to be fundamental principles of the "feminist ethic" in composition studies, is it possible to justify either the Banneker History Project or Ripley's edited collection of Black Abolitionist Papers as feminist? Why, or why not? Draw heavily on all texts you use to justify a response.

2) Does either of these projects (Banneker History Project or Black Abolitionist Papers) complicate or reflect some of the limitations of the feminist research paradigm that Kirsch discusses on pp. 17-23?

3) At this point in the semester, what is your understanding of how feminist theories can or should intersect with archival theories? In other words, how could you (and why would you) put one of our feminist theorists this semester into conversation with one of our archival theorists? On what would they converse? How would their ideas enhance or complicate one another? How could one theorist act as a lens onto another theorist's ideas? And how could that relationship, in turn, help to answer part of your research question?

Good luck and have fun extending this toward your final project!

-Professor Graban

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Digitization, Access, Vandalism, and More ...

Hi, everyone.

Today's discussion of digitization inspired a few more questions for me that I would like to share. Feel free to take up one or more of these in your final research log:

1. What makes the 9/11 archive an archive, rather than just a collection of born-digital texts? (You may be interested in viewing the older version of the 9/11 site, as well.) In responding, think about some of what we discussed in class today, i.e., about archival spaces being negotiated and renegotiated, about the expectations we bring to archives in terms of power, purpose, pliability, in/stability, etc.

2. The following photograph records from the Monroe County Historical Society make a nice example of records that show interaction between artifacts and the public.
Can you articulate or describe the kinds of archival interactions that these records promote? Support? Encourage? Now, what kinds of interactions (or relationships) would they discourage? (Hint: try using the page before responding.)

3. Ramsey cites Karin Becker of the Nordic Museum in Stockholm in saying that "the museum has also become the institutionalized arbiter of value" (Becker 3, qtd. in Ramsey 84). What does this mean, and how is it significant in light of some your own discoveries about archival value, copyright, and technology during today's class discussion?

4. What kinds of practical, conceptual, and theoretical gaps can digitizing women's collections create (according to Ramsey, Cox, and Carlson)? You might think about whether you see any relationship between these three readings and Bordelon (on Gertrude Buck) and Endelman (on cultural and material artifacts).

5. Ramsey mentions that digital archives exist in "non-locations" (86). What does this mean, and how does this resonate with something you remember from Steedman (Dust), Boles ("Disrespecting Original Order"), or Yakel ("Archival Representation")?

6. Should we digitize the Hennel Hendricks Collection? Why and/or why not?

Have fun!

-Professor Graban

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Literary Depictions of / Literature as "Archive"

Hi, everyone.

As promised, I offer further discussion questions for your Research Journal Log. Some of these were inspired by last week's role play on arrangement and dis/order, and some were inspired by today's discussion of Hoosier folklore and our quick analysis of Dillon's "category disorder" and of Sanborn's "Humorous Women." As we move steadily into the next unit and begin thinking about your individual archival research projects, it becomes more important for me to see what and how much you can do with text -- i.e., demonstrating how your ideas stem from the texts we read, demonstrating how you can eloquently put two or more complicated texts into conversation with each other, and demonstrating how much you can unpack a segment or passage by noting patterns, analogies, key terms, or useful paraphrases that in turn illuminate other parts of the text.

1) In the "Preface" to Hoosier School-Master, Eggleston lists some implicit hopes for the novel alongside some of his concerns about writing it (including, perhaps, that his novel could contribute to the formation of a Hoosier literature). One such concern was that readers would think he exaggerated his dialectical descriptions, rather than preserving their "true usus loquendi" (6). Do you notice any patterns in the dialectic, i.e., according to social standing, gender, political orientation, etc.? In other words, is Eggleston's Hoosier provincialism classifiable by any other means?

2) Look up "assemblage" in the OED and the SAA Glossary (both are linked to our Course Resources page). Craft a new definition, in which you synthesize these entries with Elizabeth Maddock Dillon's notion of "category disorder" and Deleuze and Guattari's "lines of articulation or segmentarity." Then, locate a segment or passage from Hoosier School-Master that has to do with leaving or not leaving historical evidences behind, and that you can justify as assemblage.

3) Compare two or more scenes or accounts of domesticity in Hoosier School-Master. What are the politics in such a comparison, i.e., what "forms of agency and power float across different relationships" that are only made visible in the act of comparing (Dillon)?

4) How are those politics similar to or different from Steedman's "memory" of Richard Hoggart's 1958 "rag rug" in Elizabeth Gaskell's 1848 novel (Steedman 113-115)?

5) According to Jarratt, in what ways should the Hoosier School-Master (or literary histories in general) be suspect? On what basis? Please draw heavily on both texts.

6) If you were editing Eggleston's manuscript in 1871 from serial to book form, would you prefer to leave the strikes in the text to show it is a revision in progress, to move the strikes to the endnotes, or to erase them altogether? Justify your response.

-Professor Graban

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Hoosier School-Master

Dear Seminar Members:

As promised, here are some questions in advance of Tuesday's "Literary Depictions of/Literature as Archive" discussion. Eggleston's novel is somewhat long and may seem tangential to the themes of our class thus far, so these questions are intended to help you focus (and not to spoil your unadulterated enjoyment of the book).

1) Select one scene from the novel that you think is the most "historically rich" or "critically insightful." Be prepared to unpack it for us in class on Tuesday, to justify your selection, and to bring it into conversation with something we have already read in class.

2) The Hoosier School-Master is fiction, not documentary, but Eggleston considered himself to be a competent historian of rural education. How does he (seem to) rely on history in his novel to document the Hoosier teacher? As you read, do you see evidence of what could be archival discoveries, or can you envision how he might have used archival information to craft the story?

3) Where should we be skeptical of the "history" he narrates? In other words, in what ways do you think "Hoosier education" represents a construct of specific social or institutional beliefs?

See you next week,
-Professor Graban

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Martha Ballard Case Study

Dear Seminar Members:

The preparation for our Case Study is in two parts, and it most likely sounds and looks more complicated than it is. Part One gives you an opportunity to explore the online version of Laurel Ulrich's book based on Martha Ballard's diary, while Part Two asks you to do some mediated reading. I'll ask each of you to informally present (as in, talk us through) your responses to this activity on Tuesday.

Part One
From the main page, click on “A Midwife’s Tale: The Book,” and read "About Laurel Thatcher Ulrich," read pp. 3-12 and 34-35 of the Introduction, and read the Epilogue to her book on the diary. Allow yourself some time to adjust to reading in this online format if you aren't completely comfortable. Please do the following in your Research Journal Log:

  1. Summarize what you think is the (or are the) justification(s) for preserving and digitizing this diary.
  2. Note Ulrich’s description of past assessments of the diary on pp. 8-10. What clues does she give about the reasons why she saw more of interest in it than past researchers had seen?
  3. Choose one of the passages from Ballard's diary that Ulrich quotes in her Introduction. Read around the passage and consider how the abstraction of this one passage helps create historical meaning, that is, how does separating a particular entry from the mass in which it is embedded help researchers reconstruct a historical narrative?

Part Two
Next, read one half of the account called "One Rape, Two Stories,” which is on the “doing history” section of the Martha Ballard website. Amanda, please read only “the official story.” Kasey and Vincent, please read only "Martha Ballard's Story." It is a long account, so feel free to skim for just a sense of the event.

(The actual account is in the left text bar, while the archival documents used for the account are in the main window. To read any of the archival documents, click on "view image.")

  1. Considering only the half of the account you have been assigned, summarize the events and list the main characters involved, as best you can. Discuss the credibility of the charge as you understand it.
  2. Then, read the other half of the account (Amanda would read "Martha Ballard's story" while Kasey and Vincent would read "the official story"). Given your initial introduction to the story, what was surprising or intriguing about the second version? Did your assessment of the credibility of the charge change after that second reading, or remain the same?
  3. Now, beginning at the diary's main page, locate the full text of the quoted passage that you read for step 3. above. You can use the "go to a date" search feature to find the entry you need. Read the entries for a week before and a week after your choice. Does your response to step 3. above change, or remain the same?
  4. What questions does this activity raise for you if any, about the nature of online archives, about historicizing lesser-known documents, about diaries as archival record (or as archives), or about archival methodologies? Alternatively, what answers do you feel this activity has provided, if any, to questions that have been lingering for you so far this semester?

Feel free to let me know if questions come up as you prepare.

--Professor Graban

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blouin's Social Mediation and Suffrage Timelines

Hi, everyone.

As promised, here are links to the timelines we examined in class today, along with some of the questions that guided our critical examination of them. I'd like to continue this discussion at the beginning of Thursday's class, as a segueway into Steedman and Jarratt. I have also included the preparation suggestions I made for Thursday's reading.

Today's Activity
Locate and compare the following timelines of Suffrage history:

Laurie Mann’s Timeline of Women’s Suffrage in the United States
“One Hundred Years Towards Suffrage” (hosted by NAWSA)
“A History of the American Suffragist Movement”
Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000

Discuss some of the explicit and implicit differences between the timelines and how they represent the movement. Note any interesting patterns or dissonances between them.

Critical Examination Questions
Blouin's key claim seems to be that "'Archives,' ... is beginning to emerge in ... cultural and historical studies as an object of study, not simply as a place where study occurs" (103). How do these timelines reflect that claim?

Following that claim, Blouin cites Jacques Derrida to ask how one can "'prove the absence of archive?'" (104), by which he means "reconcil[ing] deeply held historical beliefs when existing archival evidence seems to point to the contrary or ... to reveal nothing at all" (104). How could the timelines -- or more specifically, the patterns and gaps we notice between them -- prove the absence of their larger archive? What larger gaps or questions do they raise for us?

An alternative question is this: In what way could these timelines -- or more specifically, the patterns and gaps you notice between them -- represent Blouin's "power relationships," "mediation," or "social memory"?

Preparation for Thursday

As you read Jarratt's article and Steedman's first chapter, try to do the following to help you read:
  1. summarize the main point of each essay and list the major sources, voices, evidences they use to construct that main point (i.e., how does each author "build her theory," so to speak?)
  2. write a brief response to each author in which you tell her (directly) how her essay has either enhanced or complicated your understanding of "history," "historiography," "modernism," or "feminism."
As always, any of the above makes great fodder for your research journal log, as do the questions below.

I look forward to hearing your responses on Thursday!

-Professor Graban

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Problem-Solving Questions

Dear Seminar Members:

Today marks the halfway point in our first Archival Problem-Solving Exercise, so I thought I should offer a set of questions that has been building from our reading and discussion the past few weeks. Several of these questions came to fruition for me last week, while watching you investigate the Mary Hatt papers and the Dames Club Records and while talking about how those collections formed. I offer them here, as a kind of interpretive lens onto what we are doing, and I encourage you to take up one or multiple of these in your Research Journal or your Problem-Solving Report (as you wish):
  • For all of these writers (Mattias, Sharer, Bradsher, Hunter), what is at stake in “collecting” something, i.e., if we were to stop collecting, how bad would that be or what effects would that have?
  • How many of those assumptions/beliefs do you see reflected in the scope and arrangement of the Mary Geraldine Hatt collection or in the Dames Club collection?
  • How does gender seem to get represented in this archive (or these collections)? What about race (if at all)? What about class (if at all)? What about other things?
  • What assumptions might a researcher make about gender, race, class based on this archive (or these collections)?
  • Was it provenance or original order that determined its arrangement? How might each system (provenance or original order) cause certain items to be more visible than others? Or less visible?
  • Does the collection represent what you think is “full” or “fair” coverage of the subject? If so, why? If not, why not? What drives your expectations of “full” and “fair”?
  • In what ways does/could this collection carry intellectual value (i.e., what questions does it raise or processes does it make possible, or concepts does it complicate or disrupt)?
  • Would this collection equip us to think about archiving more as literary investigation, or cultural interpretation, or civic engagement, and why (i.e., does it appear to hold more literary value, cultural value, or civic value)?

Good luck and have fun with this,
Professor Graban