Possession by A.S. Byatt0

After reading the book, I went and watched the movie. I was a little confused here and there before and the movie cleared up a lot although it wasn’t as specific as the book was. The movie sort of cut a lot of the letters into pieces in order to fit them into the script. And Val’s character was completely erased. But the book had the full letters from beginning to end. And i felt that Val’s role was pretty important. She was in a way… playing Ellen’s role. i think.

I must say, i was very depressed when i first thought the father never knew of the existence of his daughter and almost cried in the movie at the moment. However at the very end of the book/movie, i was bouncing with joy and all giggly when it turns out that the braid of hair was his daughter’s and not Christabel’s. I’m really glad Byatt added that special scene in his novel. Otherwise the story wouldn’t have been as complete for us, the readers.

As for questions, i still have lot.

1) Did christabel cut connections with Ash in guilt of Blanche’s death?

2) How can Ellen bare NOT to read the last letter Christabel send Ash? The curiosity would have killed me if it were me in her shoes. Perhaps she wanted to let bygones be bygones.

3) She stated in the book (another part that was missing from the movie) the reason why she couldn’t show Ash the letter. (Did she ever sent Christabel the letter she wrote though? Did Christabel ever find out that Ash never read her letter or was she forever just left in the blue thinking maybe he didnt reply because he hadn’t forgiven her?) Why did Ellen save the evidence of her husband’s betray in a box and kept it buried with him? Was that her way of showing acceptance? Her way of letting go and allowing her husband to take the love he had with christabel with him after death? Although I kind of wished she had shown the letter to him, but i can understand why she didn’t. If it was any other bitter wife, she would have burned up the evidence. By allowing the letter to be buried with her husband, it’s as if she’s granting her husband’s happiness. Since she knows after all, the letter was his and not hers to read.

4) Was Ellen unable to bare children or were she unable to be intimate with her husband at all? I was a little confused.


As for the book’s relation to archives… i guess it sets the examples of how archives can piece together a long lost story. Or perhaps a hidden story. It brings forth puzzles and mysteries and sets the archivists on a quest to uncover more. The way Maud and Roland was “possessed” by the Victorian letters of their favorite poets and would stop at nothing until they’ve found out what happened to the lovers.

I like how byatt lead Christabel’s decendants to Mead. It made the story even more interesting how the archivist was really digging up her own origins.

In the book, Christabel compared herself to Lady of Shalott. I thought that was very interesting too. In a way, she really was. The way she traps herself in her peaceful life with Blanche, not wanting to ruin Ash’s marriage and not replying back to his letters, was similar to the way the Lady of Shalott was trapped in her tower in fear of the “curse” if she were to leave. The “curse” in Christabel’s case was the consequences if she had accepted their love. But afterwards Christabel was no longer able to conceal her love for Ash and chose to be with him the same way the lady of shalott was unable to resist her temptation against sir Lancelot. Even though both The lady of shalott and christabel had a poor ending, it didn’t seem like any of them had regretted their actions. One died smiling, while the other gave birth to a beautiful daughter and eventually was able to let go of her anger when she wrote her final letter. I guess like Tennyson has said, “it was better to have loved and lost then never loved at all.” Cristabel never did burn her letters since they were precious memories and evidence of the love she had with Ash. Touching.


Final Proposal0

I haven’t yet came up with a permanent thesis. I’m at a tug a war between the pros and cons of digital archives (databases). I do believe that by transferring documents into the digital world, it has granted researcher, students, and/or just curious people a much more easier life.  However, I do not believe that we should depend solely on databases and completely abandon the old fashion way of storing archives just to “save paper” or “save time.” I believe they are both equally as important and should both be kept alive. Manovich believes that “databases and narratives are natural enemies” but i think otherwise. If anything, they work hand to hand to create a more complete picture.

I plan to add the pros of both digital archives and traditional archives into the paper and how digital can solve the problems to narratives and how narratives can help digital to further advance into a better development process.

Basically, the physical copy supplements the digital copy.


“Silence” and “Absence”0

“Silences in the creation of sources, trouillot refers to plantations records of births in which slave births were not recorded until it was seen that the child survived.” – Bastian

The “Whispers in the Archives: finding the voices of colonized in the records of the colonizer,” Bastian brings attentions to the pros and cons of archives. Cons as in how sometimes history can be easily edited depending on writer and the records he/she chooses to write from. It can sometimes leave out things that the writer believed to be unimportant when it could have been a “cultural significance” a few generations after.  That’s where the “silent voices” comes into mind. With things edited out, it “is not a history forgotten, bu tone that was never recorded, therefore not remembered.” “A historical hole where the history of ‘other’ never existed.” “The writing of history is so dependent on who is reading, interpreting, and selecting the records.”

On the other hand, archives are pros in terms of  offering a “path to discovering those voices and constructing” the views of identity and cultural history.

In “Neither Lost nor Found: Slavery and Visual Archives,” Best focuses on the “absence” of archives.  An “archival aporia,” where sometimes archives can bring doubt into history? Aporia means an expression of doubt. Was that what Best meant?

According to Best, there are two types of absence. One with “the records are either there or not there,” can be recovered if lucky (or found if lost) and another that is impossible to recover.

“The absence of direct photographic evidence of enslavement acquires its own substance and significance”

I believe either Bastian or Best, (I forgot which or perhaps even both) had mentioned that most of the stories or photographs were biased towards the plantation owners. That true history of “enslavement” was not directly shown. That was a con to archives. How history is written by the winners at the time. It wasn’t until after slavery was abolished did more works/ documentary were published or filmed on behave of the victims during slavery. For example, the founding fathers would have been terrorists if they had not won the revolutionary war. (no offense =])

“The writing of history is so dependent on who is reading, interpreting, and selecting the records” – bastian

If i remember correctly, there was a term for the losing side’s publications. Can’t really remember the term right now.


NY academy of medicine1

I’ve left early, so I haven’t done much research during the visit. I do remember the way the archives look though. The pagers were so delicate that I fear even touching it. Arlene Shaner had mentioned a lot of these pamphlets and books were published around the civil war in the 18th century therefore the quality of those papers were extremely poor. One specific publish date I remember was 1874, if i’m not wrong, I believe it was shorty after Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in 1849. The Constitution of Medical College for Women was also published around the mid 1800. It seems the NYAM itself was found around that timeline too. In 1847 to be exact.

By the time The Country Doctor was published, there were already a lot of women perusing a medical degree with career roles in that field.

Arlene states that NYAM is actually in partnership with a lot of other librarys out there, including the NYPL. The NYPL actually sends all the archives on medicine to NYAM.

She also mentions that the place we visited wasn’t built till 1926 when the academy was moved to 5th ave. They wanted to built an environment for “rare book” although “real” rare books aren’t exactly placed “behind the bars.”

I was looking through the timeline in 1800 and it appears around 1850s to 1900s women from all around the globe were “allowed to study.”

1853: Sweden

1865: Italy

1867: Russia

1868: The United States

1870: Great Britain

1871: Japan

1874: The Netherlands

1875: Denmark

1877: Chile

1879: Brazil

1880: France

1883: Romania

1884: Norway

1888: Spain “with a written approval from a male guardian”

1889: Sweden

1896: Austria-Hungary

1898: Haiti

1899: Denmark

1920: China

1935: Iran



911 digital archive0

One of the archives i wish to explore would be the 911 digital archive.

here’s the site i found with pretty interesting resources.


It contains emails, first hand stories, pictures, videos, documents and even sounds that has to do with the 911 attack.

there was also another site, which was the 9/11 fact timeline.


I’m not too sure if its a primary source, but after reading through them it seems there were so many loopholes that could have prevented the attack if America were a bit more attentive.

“Letters written by Helen Keller. Forty-thousand photographic negatives of John F. Kennedy taken by the president’s personal cameraman. Sculptures by Alexander Calder and Auguste Rodin. The 1921 agreement that created the agency that built the World Trade Center.

Besides ending nearly 3,000 lives, destroying planes and reducing buildings to tons of rubble and ash, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks destroyed tens of thousands of records, irreplaceable historical documents and art.”

I would also like to research what other crucial documents were lost, and how much of an impact 9/11 was besides the large amount of causalities.



here’s another 9/11 archive site.


It’s titled, “Archives for those seeking the truth”

I’ve heard and witnessed it 2nd hand through the t.v, but i’ve never really researched much about the actual events prior or after the attack. I’ve heard stories and videos of the survivors but that was a decade ago. I would like to dig deeper into the story and piece together a picture of the attack.

For example, did you know that one of the terrorist called the night before to the airline to correct a misspell of his name? -.- seriously?




Or titanic! archives on titanic seems interesting too!


The Convert, Deborah Baker0

I found the way Baker set up her novel pretty interesting. I especially like how she began the chapters with Mawlana Mawdudi’s letter to Maryam Jameelah. Right from that letter, it gave readers a glimpses of what the entire novel would be about. Not that the title itself didn’t give it away. But placing Mawdudi’s letter first, Baker has succeeded in bringing the attention of how different the “way of life and social conditions are” between Pakistan and America. His letter is like the introduction to the rest of the book.

Baker used the archives from the NYPL to illustrate the views of a once Jewish woman who converted into a Muslim. Baker used Jameelah’s letter send between Jameelah and her parents to take readers into Jameelah’s world and learn how things began and why did it began in the first place.

When Baker was first reading through Jameelah’s letters, Baker disagreed with Jameelah’s view of the Muslim world. “Who was Margaret Marcus to tell anyone what being a Muslim was all about, as if it were just one thing?” However just when Baker was about to “turn away… something in” Jameelah’s letter kept “bringing [her] back.” After awhile, Baker realized that Jameelah’s letters aren’t just letters for her parents to read, but letters Jameelah wish for the future generations to read and understand as well.

In the beginning the archives put together the question why Jameelah converted. Jameelah had mentioned that many people have asked her such question but only the man “who had prayed” with her understood. Jameelah’s father was more concerned about the “image” in American society, whether it is acceptable or not, more than “giving up Judaism.”

During the middle, Baker used archives to try to piece together Jameelah’s sanity. “An unsigned editorial” found Jameelah’s insanity as a cry for help. “She had no idea that she would be joining a community where not only is the human body enslaved, but the soul is as well.”

“She might have been unhappy as a Jew, but at least she had the choice to question her society and renounce her family’s beliefs.”

Baker then used the NYPL to try to understand who Mawdudi was, as a muslim, as “the founding father of political Islam” and as Jameelah’s guardian. “His motivation for inviting Maryam Jameelah to Lahore remains a mystery.” Through Mawdudi’s memoirs, Baker was piecing together what the Qur’an stood for in Islamic culture. Baker questions Mawdudi’s perspectives, and questions “who is to decide what the fundamental truths of Islam are or aren’t?”

The letters Jameelah wrote showed her experiences in the madhouse to be disturbing. Jameelah compared the unhealthy conditions of the woman patients to the site of the concentration camps for Jews in Germany. “The line that divides sickness from sanity, real danger from imaginary persecution, sis not always clearly drawn.” Baker had to reread many of the archives over again in case she missed anything that might have been important. Jameelah’s letters shows no signs of regret, instead it expressed “near perfect contentment.”


Database vs Archives0

“Archives suggests physicality, idiosyncratic arrangement, while database  suggests virtually, endless ordering and reordering and wholeness.”

Ed Folsom claims that databases are a “new genre, the genre of the 21st century.” It made documents more available than archives. Since archives are often restricted and not accessibly for the public. Databases also made it more possible to compare and contrast documents side by side for closer analyzes. People used to have to travel from different sources in order to collect enough information from archives. Now databases allowed scholars to collect more data in less time. Ed Folsom also mentioned Carolyn Steedman’s point towards Derrida’s “archive fever” where archivist are actually battling through a fever as they inhale dusts, chemicals,  ink, glue, and toxins when flipping through each page of an archive. Folsom believes that databases can decrease the amount of physically and mentally damage that archives brings.

Peter Stallybrass believes that Ed Folsom is exaggerating when he says that archives are usually always unavailable. Peter believes its quite the contrary. Although there are some that are restricted, but a good percentage of them are not only available to the public, they are also available to be photographed.

“To make database entirely a feature of the present is to ignore what information is stored and why.” Databases can sometimes create information “overload” where scholars lose track of what they’re searching for. Stallybrass also mentioned how database leads to plagiarism and gave an example of Shakespeare as one of the writers who had his own database and made it “shameful” since he often stole other writer’s works.

As for my personal opinions, i’m very easily persuaded and it seems both parties are very convincing. I am a big fan of technology, although at times it is frightening. But the idea to have everything available online, does seem more convenient for us students. My sisters who are a decade apart from me often says i’m lucky to have such an advance internet access where research can be done in matters of seconds. Before they used to have to spend hours to collect data the old fashion way through the library. However I can understand why Stallybrass say that database causes documents to lose its value in a way. The feeling of flipping through each page in real life is more accurate than scrolling down a page electronically. With too much information online, it is easy for researchers to be distracted by other information instead of focusing on the important one. At least i think that’s what Stallybrass is trying to say.


The Archivist by Martha Cooley0

I didn’t really listen to your advice to read the book throughout the week, I sort of procrastinated and read through it the past few hours. Had just finished and I must say, i’m completely overwhelmed. Although there were a few comedies between Matt and Roberta’s conversations, the rest of the book is just plain…depressing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book, but its one thing to hear from Matt’s explanation how his wife past and its another to actually witness her days first hand through her diary entries. It was like uncovering pieces to puzzles through each page. Matt would jump back and forth from past to present and explain the stories of each individual. It was beautiful, the way Cooley coordinated the chapters. It kept me interested throughout the entire book, each chapter gave me clues that unlocked the mystery behind each character. It was fun.

As for the question to: the representation of archive in the novel…

To Roberta, the T.S. Eliot letters “are the part of the picture that’s missing” behind the real truth between Eliot’s relationship with Vivienne and Emily. It also uncovers one’s identity and their religion origins. Archives to Roberta, reveals deepest emotions and uncovers mysteries to pieces of history.

Roberta found her ethnicity through an old photograph with a date on the back, and from that she discovered her family were originally Jewish. Archives have the power to dig up the past that time has come to buried. I can now see how Matt described it as “grave robbery.”

As for Matt and Judith’s situation, archives are represented as a dangerous tool in uncovering reality that one may or may not be able to handle. Matt describes Judith as “an archivist of evil,” how she would collect all the images of war, how people suffered and died, the harsh reality behind the concentration camps of the holocaust, and all the documents and letters from the survivals of the war. It eventually overwhelmed her and drove her into insanity. Matt found those articles and photos to be “morbid.”

“As an archivist i have the power over other people. I control access to materials they desire.” Matt tried to restrict Judith’s access to archives in attempts to help her recover although the plan ended in failure dramatically.

“A good archivist serves the readers best by maintaining, throughout research, a balance between empathy and distance.” Although it is one thing to appreciate and acknowledge the existence of archives, it is also important to maintain one’s distance from it at the same time. Too much, can be overwhelming, and too little will defeat its purpose.


Knowledge, Ignorance, and Archives0

The text was a bit confusing, but nevertheless, I managed to obtain a certain level of comprehension towards Susan Scott Parrish and Melissa Littlefield’s definition of archives. At least I think i did.

My guess is that, Parrish found archives to be… boring? Or perhaps it’s the microfilm version of archives she dislikes.  She explains in her essay how reading through archives gave her symptoms of “motion sickness” and “queasiness.” She even goes as far to describe her experience as “try[ing]… not to die.” However on the other hand, she gave a brief definition of what archives are supposed to be. By comparing archives to writing and photography, she makes clear to the audience that archives are another form of “memory” that is “durable, external, [and] locatable.” Microfilms or “saving technologies” looses the meaning of memory and changes the original voice of the text.  She mentions Derrida’s opinion of archives as a group of documents under “house arrest.” However she included that such arrest is “temporary and only partial.” On one hand, she claims that archives brings her to “boredom” before she can actually find “life” in its text, but on the other hand it seems like she wishes to explore more since she mentions that there are many archives that are unavailable to the public. One thing for sure is that Parrish finds archives to be disorganized and although it is the job of an archivist to “identify, systematize, and protect the objects in their collection” the actual studying of the contents were “patternlessness.”

Melissa Littlefield emphasized Parrish’s theories of how “ignorance is part of the archive” in her Response to Susan Scott Parrish essay. Melissa gave her readers a set of structures of how ignorance was set up. Basically, there are five ways to achieve ignorance: neglect, extinction, secrecy, and suppression. Archives often contained information that are either overlooked, lost, hidden or censored. Aside from the five ways of ignorance, Melissa also mentions that there are three types of ignorance: Native state, lost realm, and strategic play. The unknown causes humans to explore for answers in the native state. However, the reason why ignorance exists in the first place is partially due to the lack of archives that were available and obtainable to the public. This was also pointed out in Perrish’s essay. Melissa believes that in the strategic play, knowledge was purposely placed in secrecy in order to shield it’s value or content. She concludes her essay with “What we don’t know could fill an archive.”



Hi, hello, and how do you do?0

Hello there, my name is Jennifer Chen, but a simple Jenn will do. I was born and raised in United States, or New York to be exact, but I come from a Chinese heritage. Currently a student at Queens College, I am double majoring in English and Political Science. Should be at a senior level, but who knows, I lost track with the “upper” or “lower” standards in our school system. GPA? Well, school isn’t really my strongest point but I am definitely a people’s person and can be quite interested to be around with… or maybe not. Actually I’ve been told many times that I can pull off the elegant look as long as I keep my mouth shut, heh.  I live at home with my parents and three dogs. Yes, three dogs. I remember praying everyday for a dog when I was young, but now, sometimes i just want to throw them out the window.

I love reading books, I do, but like many other students, I am cursed with procrastination and laziness. It will take me forever to pick up a book, but once I do, I almost never put it back down until it’s finished. I am also cursed with curiosity, where I often find myself skipping to the last few pages of a book just to see the outcome of the story and then end up being disappointed when I’ve ruined my surprise. It’s a terrible curse and I have not yet been able to conquer it.

I don’t not know what path lies ahead of me when I graduate. Some were lucky to discover themselves and who they wish to become while in college, but unfortunately I was not one of them. I have ideas, but overall, my future is still a mystery and my present is nothing but a big blur. Yeah, I’m a total mess, but I have confidence! I’m sure it doesn’t matter what obstacles are ahead, I will take them on with a smile! – ok, i’m exaggerating, but you all know what i mean… right? Yes? no? ok, nvm.


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