From work to text to document

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2 Scopus citations


The defining trope for the humanities in the last 30 years has been typified by the move from "work" to "text." The signature text defining this move has been Roland Barthes seminal essay, "From Work to Text." But the current move in library, archival and information studies toward the "document" as the key term offers challenges for contemporary humanities research. In making our own movement from work to text to document, we can explicate fully the complexity of conducting archival humanistic research within disciplinary and institutional contexts in the twenty-first century. This essay calls for a complex perspective, one that demands that we understand the raw materials of scholarship are processed by disciplines, by institutions, and by the work of the scholar. When we understand our materials as constrained by disciplines, we understand them as "works." When we understand them as constrained by the institutions of memory that preserve and grant access to them, we understand them as "documents." And when we understand them as the ground for our own interpretive activity, we understand them as "texts." When we understand that humanistic scholarship requires an awareness of all three perspectives simultaneously (an understanding demonstrated by case studies in historical studies of the discipline of rhetoric), we will be ready for a richer historical scholarship as well as a richer collaboration between humanists and archivists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-226
Number of pages10
JournalArchival Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009

Bibliographical note

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  • Archive
  • Barthes
  • Derrida
  • Document
  • Record
  • Rhetoric
  • Text


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