The Association for Computers and the Humanities is sponsoring two sessions at the 2004 convention of the Modern Language Association, in Philadelphia, from 27 through 30 December: see below for the details.
We also offer a guide to all computer-related sessions at the convention.
Although the 2004 convention is now in the past, this information will remain available, as a record of what went on. Similar information for many other years is available via the main page on ACH MLA sessions.
Tuesday, 28 December 2004, 3:30–4:45 p.m., 406, Philadelphia Marriott Hotel
Presiding: Aimée H. Morrison, University of Waterloo
“Archives of Empire and the Promise of Open Source,”
Jack Shuler, Graduate Center, CUNY
A recent Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition cites textile production as integral to establishing the power of the Mongol empire. In the exhibit's note, the curators write that “In the creation of luxury textiles and objects for the Montol elite, Chinese artists developed a visual language that was an effective means of establishing their rule and continuous presence through the vast empire.” These textiles themselves are not only historical artifacts, but they record, and are, in fact, archives of one civilization's attempt to materialize its power. If we are to assume that the United States government exists at the centre of an empire or has the desire to create an empire, what then are the “textiles” of this empire? What are its archives of power? In this presentation, the notion of the archive as a transmission of power across an empire will be explored by examining a popular electronic source of information on countries around the world, the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook). This “factbook,” an online archive of data collected by the United States government, serves to control discourse, specifically the way other nations are represented and discussed. I will present a variety of counters to the closed/fixed mood of archives, exploring the role that the Open Source movement could have on the democratization of archives by making all archives users, archons, those who Jacques Derrida calls “document guardians.”
“Hypertext (Re)Visions: Rescuing the Literary Annual from Material Obscurity,” Katherine Diane Harris, Graduate Center, CUNY
Literary annuals, early nineteenth-century British texts published yearly from 1823 to 1856 and primarily intended for a female middle-class audience, were decoratively bound volumes filled with steel-plate engravings of nationally-recognized artwork and sentimental poetry and prose. The genre exuded a feminine delicacy which attracted a primarily female readership. On display in a woman's drawing room, the annuals became an acceptable indication of propriety, education and wealth, a complement to the tense social definition of a “lady” at the time. As the annual's popularity grew, women's poetic contributions saturated the contents.
Book history scholarship and literary criticism on the annuals has been sporadic through the twentieth century up until academia's significant drive to recover “lost” writing by women. The texts themselves, including each volume's 30–50 authors and over 75 pieces of prose and poetry, are veiled behind inadequate catalogue descriptions, blurry microfilms of a volume's physical characteristics, and difficulty in locating the “real,” material object. I partially remedy this problem with a hypertextual archive of the first British-published literary annual. The hypertext project archives several components from the 1823 through 1830 Forget Me Not volumes, which includes both bibliographical details (cover, binding, spine, size) and content (engravings, poetry, prose) in an attempt to recover from obscurity the literary genre, its authors, and its contribution to book history and women's authorship in the early nineteenth century. The archive is currently “live” and can be viewed at:
This paper will guide the audience through a tour of the hypertextual archive to illustrate the relationship between the Forget Me Not's contents, contributors, and bibliographical details—a relationship that both celebrates and admonishes femininity.
Nick Montfort, University of Pennsylvania
Many theories of new media, and many perspectives on computer writing, assume that the display screen, sometimes specifically the CRT screen, is an essential part of all creative and communicative computing. N. Katherine Hayles makes this assumption in using the “flickering signifier” as a figure for all text produced by code; Sherry Turkle also glosses over other computer interfaces by describing our experience with computers as a “life on the screen.” Although certainly a visible and important part of our material experience of computers today, the screen is actually a relative newcomer to human-computer interaction. Early work with computers happened largely via paper: on paper tape, punched cards, and print terminals and teletypewriters, such as those of the brand name Teletype, which had a scroll-like supply of continuous paper for printing output and input both. By looking back to early electronic texts (including the interactive systems Eliza and Adventure) and examining material interactions involving Teletype and print terminals, I aim to show how history contradicts “screen essentialist” assumptions about computing, and to suggest a few ways in which print interfaces can inform our understating of electronic texts today.
Thursday, 30 December 2004, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 404, Philadelphia Marriott Hotel
Presiding: David L. Gants, University of New Brunswick