From Fragments to Constellation: On Essayistic and Archival Practices

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Archives and archival materials can play a particular role in literature – not only as sources of information but also as thematic or narrative elements. The relation between archives and literature can also be approached from a more philosophical viewpoint, which enables an exploration of different aspects of writing. This presentation focuses on the relationship between the archive and the essay. I suggest, reflecting in particular on Walter Benjamin’s ideas about history, collecting and writing, that there is a creative affinity between essayistic writing and archival practices. Essayist collects, inspired by a certain subject or
theme, pieces from here and there and brings them together into a personal literary outcome. The essay is often composed of fragments, scraps and more or less unpredictable associations. Along the same lines, archival practices include
collecting, sorting and assembling things together. In addition, both the essay and the archive are destined to remain in a certain way unfinished. Finally, I suggest that the essay, as a constellation of various elements and fragments, could be called a particular mode of archive as well.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 14th CIRN Prato Conference 2017
Subtitle of host publicationArt as Archive: Archive as Art & the Imagined Archive
EditorsLarry Stillman, Misita Anwar
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9874652-6-9
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventCommunity Informatics Research Network Prato Conference: Art as Archive: Archive as Art & The Imagined Archive - Monash University Center, Prato, Italy
Duration: 25 Oct 201727 Oct 2017
Conference number: 14


ConferenceCommunity Informatics Research Network Prato Conference
Abbreviated titleCIRN
Internet address


  • Archive
  • Essay
  • Walter Benjamin

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