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7AAEM655 The Nineteenth-Century Archive Workshop

Credit value: 20
Module convenor: Dr Sarah Crofton
Assessment: 1 x 3,000 word essay 75%; 1 x learning journal (2,000 words minimum) 25%
Teaching pattern: One two hour seminar weekly

Module description:

Nineteenth-century writers were fascinated by archives, and the ways in which documents and artifacts of former generations preserved, and sometimes reenacted, the past. This module is designed to introduce you to the pleasures and perils of the archive, while also teaching you to think creatively and theoretically about the archive as a concept: about its historical development throughout the nineteenth century, its political and ideological components, and its uses for scholars and writers today. Concepts around the archive that students will be introduced to include: survival (accidental as well as planned); decay; incompleteness and gaps; hidden stories; silences; micro-histories versus macro-history; provenance; organization; reading ‘against the grain’; catalogues; literary responses to the archive. Half of the sessions on this module are taught outside of the classroom – in libraries, museums and computer labs. These hands-on sessions are then used as the basis for theoretical and literary discussion in the seminar room. This is a module which encourages participation and creativity – a journey of discovery for all.

Module Aims: 

  • To introduce students to concepts of the nineteenth - century archive, ranging from those relating to contemporary practices of collecting, ordering and managing texts and artefacts, to present day ideas about the identification and management of nineteenth - century sources.
  • To gain first-hand experience of handling rare books, manuscripts and objects; and to facilitate their understanding of literary culture in relation to material cultures.
  • To equip students with the skills and knowledge required to devise, plan and carry out an original and independent research project of the appropriate range and depth for MA work.
Learning Outcomes: 

Students will have:

  • Developed an understanding of both nineteenth-century and current day theories of epistemology and taxonomy in relation to archives.
  • Understand the political nature of archives and knowledge organisation.
  • Considered the ways in which the selection of sources will shape a research project and its outcomes.
  • Interpreted a range of nineteenth-century texts and artefacts to understand the ways in which different texts and artefacts might relate to each other.
  • Kept a learning journal of the module and reflected critically upon their own archival practices.
  • Identified an area of original research based on archival material and developed the ability to pose appropriate research questions.

Core reading: 

  • George Elliot, Middlemarch (1872)
  • Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)

 

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

 

2018-19 Module Description

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Module Title: The Nineteenth Century Archive: Victorian Things
Credit value: 20
Module convenor: Dr Sarah Crofton
Assessment: 1 x 3,000 word essay 75%; 1 x learning journal (2,000 words minimum) 25%

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: One two hour seminar weekly
Pre-requisites: None

Module description:

Nineteenth century writers were fascinated by archives, and the ways in which documents and artifacts of former generations preserved, and sometimes re-enacted, the past.  No less so are we. Contemporary writers are bewitched by the romance of archives (eg AS Byatt in Possession), and literary and cultural theorists have turned the archive into a central locus for asking difficult questions about, for instance, time, memory, power and desire. This module is designed to introduce you to the pleasures and perils of the archive, while also teaching you to think creatively and theoretically about the archive as a concept: about its historical development throughout the 19th century, its political and ideological components, and its uses for scholars and writers today. Concepts around the archive that students will be introduced to include: survival (accidental as well as planned); decay; incompleteness and gaps; hidden stories; silences; micro-histories versus macro-history; provenance; organisation; reading ‘against the grain’; catalogues; literary responses to the archive. Half of the sessions on this module are taught outside of the classroom – in libraries, museums and computer labs. These hands-on sessions are then used as the basis for theoretical and literary discussion in the seminar room. This is a module which encourages participation and creativity – a journey of discovery for all. The material for this module has been trialled in the ‘Researching the Nineteenth-Century Archive Project’, funded by the King’s Teaching Fund and a King’s Teaching Innovation Grant.

Assessment

Students will be required to produce a Learning Journal at the end of the module. This should reflect on their experiences of learning on the course and chart the development of their essay-research project. This assignment will constitute 25% of total assessment on the module, and will serve a formative as well as summative purpose, as students will receive feedback on their work before attempting the main piece of assessment. This piece of work, constituting 75% of the total assessment, will be an essay, on a topic either drawn from a list based around the module’s organising themes, or a piece of original archival research developed by the student him/herself in close consultation with the seminar leaders. Students will be expected to draw on their visits to archives both on this module and/or independently in their work for this assignment.

In preparation for this module, please read George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1872) and AS Byatt’s Possession: A Romance (1990) before the start of the course. If you race through these and want more, try Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010). You will also find it useful to read as much of the following as you can: Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. by A M Sheridan Smith (1972; repr. Routledge, 2011); Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. by Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Fiona Candlin and Raiford Guins, eds., The Object Reader (Routledge, 2009) will provide some useful material for the course too. If you find some of this more theoretical material difficult, do not worry, we will have plenty of time to discuss it in seminars during the course.

 

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