[-empyre-] (no subject)
The reason I mentioned feminist cyberculture in relation to the notion of
archiving ephemeral texts is that one argument used against women?s
intellectual education (remember in the States women could be educated in
the domestic arts) was that women did not have an intellectual history.
If women did have an intellectual history, the argument went, then it
would be proof that they could learn and participate at the level of their
male counterparts. This argument, of course, is a specious one. We did
have a tradition, a rich one, in fact. But it took some unearthing by
scholars to bring some of this tradition to the forefront. I am thinking
of Alice Walker?s work in bringing Zora Neale Hurston back to the public.
Who got published and why??and who got to stay in print and why??are whole
other issues, of course, but it is a contemporary example of transporting
work through time. Aspasia, the female philosopher who supposedly taught
Socrates, is a case of transporting *ephemeral* work through time.
We know of Aspasia?s existence through the writing of Plutarch and four of
Socrates? students. She is documented as being Pericles? companion and is
attributed with helping him create a famous funeral oration. Both Plato
and Cicero also document her existence in their works. But no extant text
that is she accredited with remains. So, the argument goes: No written
text, no Aspasia. [It doesn?t matter that we don?t have a written text for
Socrates either, but nevermind.] No Aspasia, no ancient female
intellectual tradition. What was taught to me, for example, in public
school and college (1968-1975) was that women were only *recently*
educated, and that even that is a dubious practice since there is no proof
that we can really do anything of merit with our education. Marie Curie
and Emily Dickenson were the exceptions, not the rule.
There is a whole host of female intellectuals (and by this word, I mean
artists, thinkers, teachers, and the like) that, since the 1960s, are
coming to light. But these names showing up in the various Norton
Anthologies are just a pittance of those who may have actually produced
work in their time?and surely do not represent the countless other
Aspasia?s that may have existed in the ancient world in places not exactly
at its Athenian epicenter.
Now, here comes the connection to feminist cyberculture: Just recently
Judy Malloy edited a book called _Women, Art, and Technology_ that
provides a sizable account of work created by female media artists, a
whole lot of it that is ephemeral. Without Judy?s book, published by MIT
Press, these works may have disappeared. Certainly, some of the younger
female media artists and scholars I have spoken with about the book were
surprised by the level of women?s participation in technology?not to
mention such early intervention into it and manipulation of it.
Should ephemeral work be archived? Hell, yeah. I just imagine a future
where some person tells a young girl that women did not DO technology in
the 1990s. Malloy?s book would go far to prove that idiot wrong.
My argument extends beyond gender but also includes race, culture,
religion, etc. Hurston, mentioned earlier, was a Black writer from the
early 20th Century whose work became ?lost? due to white hegemony. But I
also think of how many of my colleagues here in the US working in New
Media do not pay attention to scholarship from Europe, South America, Asia
. . . not to mention our neighbors Canada and Mexico. Hegemony, of any
kind, is the enemy of intellectualism, and the best weapon against
hegemony is documentation--what some of us in Rhetoric refer to loosely as
I guess what I am trying to say is that a liquid narrative does not have
to be an invisible one . . .
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