"Genealogy is gray, meticulous, and patiently documentary. It operates on a field of entangled and confused parchments, on documents that have been scratched over and recopied many times....it must record the singularity of events outside of any monotonous finality...Genealogy, consequently, requires patience and a knowledge of details and it depends on a vast accumulation of source material....It opposes itself to the search for 'origins'." -- Michel Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History" (1971)

In a way, this page is being produced as a response to the growing number of on-line text archives throughout the web, and I hope that it will provide a different point of entry into the murky waters of canon debates. As I've watched formations of the Western canon reappear in virtual libraries this last year, the knee-jerk temptation to territorialize some web space of my own with noncanonical texts has been strong, despite what I know of John Guillory's powerful critique of the canon debate. As he notes in his Cultural Capital (1993), debates about inclusion and exclusion are surface-level skirmishes--skirmishes that elide the crucial issue of literacy and access to the means and forms of cultural production. Further, these debates do not I think do away with the albatross of the "masterpiece," or great book. Thus, I mean for this page to work toward a historicization of the notions of proper texts and proper methods, and toward a broader historicization of English studies itself. Some operative questions for this page are these: what has been the work and function of English Departments and what will it be in the future? what place does literary studies occupy in the humanities, in the university, and in its broader historical-cultural context?

For a time, my text selection will conform more to the laws of ease and visibility than anything else; that is, if I can see it from my desk and the project of scanning is a small one, then it shall likely appear as the page progresses. Also, I shall have to operate under certain juridical constraints, and thereby quote in part when I would rather quote in full.

Page Created:  May 1995, while a graduate student in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Rita Raley