Transatlantic Literary Studies and the Archive

Tobias Boes


Over the course of the last decade, transatlantic literary studies have taken an archival turn. This essay examines how existing research paradigms change when they are grounded in archival collections, and it also asks what it might mean to take a transatlantic view of literary archives. Archives, so I argue, are a form of spatio-temporal mapping, a way of organizing the world to which Mikhail Bakhtin gave the name “chronotope.” I illustrate various forms of this chronotope using exemplary collections from transatlantic German Studies and then turn to two questions that I consider to be of particular concern for the future: first, the increasing digitization and virtualization of archives, which in and of itself constitutes a challenge to the “transatlantic” as a meaningful category, and second the ecological costs of archival labor. (TB)

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