Archive Theory: The Text: Book, Database, Blog, Genre

In the last post I asked a question related to David Greetham's metaphor of membranous transmission between archives.

In conceiving of a text as an archive (of knowledge, voices, attitudes, values) consisting of inter-membranous citations, this text interrogates its tutor text, and also itself. How must Proust be read here through the collect of its church motif (citations) and through the heterogeneous images (also citations) that supplement it?

In the ensuing discussion I neglected to consider the obvious question of genre. What makes the membrane metaphor so rich is its basis in the notion of leaves -- of a book. The Proust passages constituting the church motif have "crossed several membranes (membranae or 'leaves' of a book) to interrogate the integrity of the archives from which they have been drawn" (Werner and Voss 1). They have, first, been translated and revised (Enright revision of the Moncrieff/Kilmartin translation) from an original (to them) printed version in French, itself an edited variant of whatever beginnings it had in manuscript; second, been singled out through my acts of reading and interepretation; third, been transcribed into a spreadsheet by myself and the woman whom I subsequently married; fourth, been imported into a database that operates upon them in response to searches of their words and phrases, as well as the paratexts (associations, context notes, image properties, pagination) that form relations with them.

Hence, each fragment of the collect constituting the core text of this archive has passed through several leaves or membranes before arriving in its place here. Only one of those leaves surviving in the present constellation is in print; the other three are digital. In that way, the digital archive-text provides several functions that allow for an interaction of digital and print membranes through its multi-layered memorializing of readings. The digital text is a deliberately partial trace of the whole print text, and its native ability to be reorganized allows for a non-sequential reading of its component parts. Thus the fascicles (OED -- "A bunch, bundle. Now only in scientific use. Formerly also fig."; "A part, number, ‘livraison’ (of a work published by instalments)" -- demarcate the points of loss in the original, allowing readers to reconstitute, to re-member the original narrative in meaningful ways by means of the pupil text.

Membrane -- OED -- "classical Latin membr{amac}na a membrane (in animal bodies), parchment membrum"

Memory -- OED -- "classical Latin memoria memor mindful, remembering (a reduplicated formation)"

Memory as the act of preservation through reduplication (of the original, through writing), of committing to archival parchment, to a node in the database. Re-membering -- collecting and reassembling the membranes, the planes of memory in the novel's signifiers and (here) signifieds, the pieces of a motif extrapolated from an organic text. Proust's churches as the archives of both personal and collective memory; his book as the same; this archive as... ?

Before addressing Barthes' S/Z, I felt it necessary to broach this subject of the membranous layers between print book and digital archive. S/Z deliberately fragments (or "stars") the text of Sarrasine in order to tease out the full ambiguity of its signifiers, to get as close as possible to the writerly text by operating methodically upon the minutiae of the readerly one. Barthes ultimately concludes that a full articulation of the text's signifying structures is impossible because the text itself is not a closed system. This archive begins with that conclusion as an assumption, limiting its selection of citations but using the mobility of the digital medium to approach the writerly text of a narrative strain running through the original. The digital medium is perfectly suited to interrogate the valences of the print text by spontaneously realigning its parts to match the reader's intent.

What can the digital archive see in the book from which it derives?