HRC Seminar - Archive Fever: The Salman Rushdie Papers

‘What is this compared with what I shall tell you tomorrow night
if the king spares me and lets me live.’
–The Arabian Nights
The Salman Rushdie papers are in the Robert W Woodruff Library [Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Library] of Emory University. The archive was purchased for an undisclosed amount in 2006 with the understanding that Salman Rushdie would give a six-week seminar on a subject of his choice at Emory University for the next five years.  The archive was opened to scholars (and the general public too) in February 2010. Although this is, by and large, an old fashioned archive (of 215 boxes and 55 oversized papers), it is a modern archive in the sense that much of the author’s drafts, letters and sundry material are preserved in computers. The archive has managed to preserve the hard disks in their original form by simulating and incorporating these disks into a PC.  As a result what Rushdie has referred to as ‘stone-age-iron-age-bronze-age’ apple computers function as if they were in their original habitat.  This paper looks at the manner in which the Rushdie archive has been catalogued and what a researcher trained in research methods and textual criticism may do with the archive. Its theoretical template is from Derrida’s short monograph Archive Fever (hence the title of this seminar presentation) as I bring together, after Derrida, three aspects of the archive. First, there is the function of the archon, the ‘magistrate,’ which requires that the archive should be deposited somewhere. Second, there is the power of the archon who establishes the laws of classification and gathering which should be applied to the archival material. Third, and finally, the latter power is paired with the ‘power of consignation.’I examine  a section of the Rushdie archive as my ‘proof’ text in some detail  to think through the ways in which archives (and in this case Rushdie’s own) carry repressed spectres as  the ‘archival’ material  lead us to alternative ways in which the published (and therefore already ‘censored’) archive may be read. The dialectic between the ‘unpublished papers’ (both autograph and typed, including fair copies of works) as one archive and the published works as another archive constitutes the central thematic of this presentation.
Vijay Mishra, PhD (ANU), DPhil (Oxford) FAHA, is Professor of English Literature and Australia Research Council (ARC) Professorial Fellow at Murdoch University. His most recent works include ‘Understanding Bollywood’ (The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Global Communication and Media Ethics) and the forthcoming  ‘The Gothic Sublime’ (The New Blackwell Companion to the Gothic).   

Date & time

Tue 24 May 2011, 4–5.30pm


Theatrette, Level 2, Sir Roland Wilson Building


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