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Dust: The Archive and Cultural History (Encounters) [Hardcover]

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Item Number 140374  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   195
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.12" Width: 5.54" Height: 0.86"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2002
Publisher   Rutgers University Press
ISBN  0813530466  
EAN  9780813530468  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In this witty, engaging, and challenging book, Carolyn Steedman has produced an original -- and sometimes irreverent -- investigation into how modern historiography has developed. Dust: The Archive and Cultural History considers our stubborn set of beliefs about an objective material world -- inherited from the nineteenth century -- with which modern history writing and its lack of such a belief, attempts to grapple. Drawing on her own published and unpublished writing, Carolyn Steedman has produced a sustained argument about the way in which history writing belongs to the currents of thought shaping the modern world. Steedman begins by asserting that in recent years much attention has been paid to the archive by those working in the humanities and social sciences; she calls this practice archivization. By definition, the archive is the repository of that which will not go away, and the book goes on to suggest that, just like dust, the matter of history can never go away or be erased. This unique work will be welcomed by all historians who want to think about what it is they do.

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Dusting off the archive  Jan 1, 2003
Carolyn Steedman is a unique figure in contemporary social history. Her often idiosyncratic work in nineteenth and early twentieth century British history combines conventional social history with life-writing, literary analysis, and contemporary critical theory, while at the same time manifesting a healthy skepticism toward postmodernist theory's more extreme claims about textuality, power, identity, and so forth. This book--really a set of revised journal articles--provides a theoretical account of the role of the archive in modern history, historiography, and critical theory. As she wends her way through her eclectic argument, Steedman takes up everything from rag rugs and Michelet to _Middlemarch_ and _Our Mutual Friend_. "Dust," Steedman's central figure, is simultaneously the past as rubbish, the past as present, and the past as decay (as the papers and bindings in the archive crumble). Steedman's reflections on what historians really do in the archives, prefaced by the acknowledgment that, in reality, many historians do not "do" such research, are partly directed against the poststructuralist critiques of philosophers like Jacques Derrida, whose theories about the archive and power, she deftly suggests, do not account for the sheer ordinariness, or even dullness, of archival work.

Steedman is certainly one of the more graceful writers in contemporary history, and she demonstrates a welcome sense of humor (and unpretentiousness) often missing from academic prose. While most readers will find this book fast going, one cannot help wishing that the argument was better constructed--the looseness being the inevitable result of recycling individual articles into a purportedly coherent book. (The blurb's claims about _Dust_'s "sustained argument" are, alas, somewhat overstated.) Moreover, one also wonders about the whereabouts of Rutgers' proofreaders. George Eliot's Casaubon becomes "Causubon," the Scottish Enlightenment professor of law John Millar becomes "James," and the Canadian historian of racial attitudes Douglas Lorimer becomes "Lorimer Douglas" (!). Nevertheless, historians, philosophers of history, and literary scholars should find this book both thought-provoking and useful.


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