Philosophy of this Site
The goal of using this chronology as it was originally constituted, in paper form, was to shift power from teachers to students. I had hoped that giving students access to this body of information would demystify my "teacherly" statements: by pointing to a list of texts published during the 1790s, their titles reflecting the decade's concern with feminist issues, I would not onlybe teaching students that the Romantic era witnessed the advent of feminism as a social movement , I would be teaching them how I came to be able to say, "The Romantic Era witnessed the advent of modern feminism": by looking at the titles of texts published. Moreover, I had hoped to use the chronology as a tool for putting the power to generalize back into students' hands: "Based on what you know about events in England, how do you think the English reacted to the French Revolution?" Students would have the power to generalize and the power to correct hasty or improperly formulated generalizations based on information contained in this chronology. Finally, I hoped that students might be able to look at the chronology and make generalizations that hadn't occurred to me.
As an electronic form, a collectively-authored text providing access to information of which no one professor could be complete master, the on-line chronology will alter power relations even more. This Web Page presenting information through links is even more of a "writerly" rather than a "teacherly" pedagogical tool. Because I compiled the paper text alone, it inevitably directs students to uncover my preferred narrative about the period latent in the document. Including readers' modifications to this text and putting it into the shape of a Web Page, in hypertext form, gives students much more freedom to read the chronology in a shape that is not predetermined, that does not always already organize history into "The Romantic Period" and thus into a predictable story . It might be possible to ask students of all different levels to use the on-line chronology to teach something to professors that is indeed really new to us.
Certainly, using texts that no single reader can master threatens teachers with loss of power: we often maintain power in the classroom by revealing the amount of cultural capital at our disposal. And yet losing that kind of power may not be such a bad thing: the passivity of students which we all abhor could be more crucially linked to resistance to the current system of symbolic appropriation than to TV, for example; students may find open-ended Web-Page assignments, assignments that obviously have no predetermined "right" answer, invigorating simply because they are not a request to make one's thinking conform to someone else's.
The chronology in paper form resembles those lists of events discussed by Hayden White in "The Value of Narrativity": insofar as it resists telling a coherent narrative, the chronology dislocates the Sovereign Subject; as opposed to the coherent, elegant lecture which constitutes the Professor as Subject, this list of events offers an opportunity for students to each become one among many historians with competing formulations of the real as they shape its materials into a narrative. The chronology on-line, combining the list-form with the technological means for even greater narrative diffusion, is indeed a writerly text, enlisting its readers to provide narrative by asserting their own subject positions rather than identifying with the Sovereign Subjectivity of their leader. Is it too much to hope that Web Pages in general, and the new pedagogies arising around them, will help us banish the "ideology of charisma" once and for all?
Given the increasing number of chronology projects on the Web as well as the necessary bearing such projects have on the continuing canon debate, it is opportune to stop and consider that the meaning of a chronology depends only indirectly on its content--whether that content is intended to be canonical or non-canonical. Most directly, the meaning of a chronology is a function of its own historically situated manifestation as a form , medium, and process ; and it is ultimately the nature of the "authority" or "consensus" implicit at this technical level that determines whether the presentation of earlier historical material in chronological form is emancipatory or not. The interesting question to be asked in our present historical conjuncture, therefore, is what this particular form of chronology (on the Web)--enabled by this particular medium and created through this particular authoring process--means.
(9/18/95; updated 8/22/99)
Laura Mandell's "hope" that a chronology in hypertext "is indeed a writerly text, enlisting its readers to provide narrative by asserting their own subject positions" and Alan Liu's "wish" that it will "pitch quintessentially 'other' canons that at most can be linked to by those who in specific circumstances need to improvise a hotlist of your, my or our canons" share some important similarities that are worth examining in light of both the presence of this particular chronology on the Web and the current theoretical hype about hypertext in general. The most obvious of these is the fact that both Mandell and Liu, and they are here representative of most scholars currently theorizing the net, speak from a position of desire rather than one of assertion. Neither can really 'believe' or 'claim', at least not in writing, that the Web 'is' something. Rather, they both theorize what it could, with a little luck, be: an un-authored text whose meaning is continually being written by a reading agent known as the 'user', even if the coherence of this agent is only fleeting and circumstantial. The desire for a "writerly reader" is, not accidentally or ironically given the occasion of the two essays, a conspicuously Romantic desire. In other words, what seems to be at the very heart of the reading of the transformative power of the Romantic Chronology and the Web is a distinctly Romantic desire to uncover the radical potential in language itself. This radical potential, for Mandell and Liu, at least in part lies in our chronology, portent of multiplicity and totalities that can never be. Our desire, however, needs no reinvesting or reconfiguring, for it is and has always been for technology and the technological. Hypertext has fundamentally changed the nature of the text and even the relations of the readers to that text, but the real monster, we say, is in the machine.
Given the current historical moment, a Romantic desire necessarily takes on new dimensions and configurations as it is shaped and determined by the technology of the internet. As Jean Baudrillard writes in relation to the 'obscene delirium of communication' in "The Ecstasy of Communication": "The pleasure is no longer one of manifestation, scenic and aesthetic, but rather one of pure fascination, aleatory and pschyotropic" (132). The emphasis on fascination here signifies the singularity of pleasure, an auto-eroticism marked by the erasure of and subsuming of the "auto" to the network; it shifts away from subject to screen as the subject is displaced into the process of communication and can no longer be figured as the agent or controller: "It is not a scene where the dramatic interiority of the subject, engaged with its objects as its image, is played out. We are here at the controls of a micro-satellite, in orbit, living no longer as an actor or dramaturge but as a terminal of multiple networks" (128). For Baudrillard, the screen, and not the self, now stands in as the origin of representation: the radical interdependence of the screen>network has replaced the comfortable distance of the self>other. For Baudrillard, the screen>network constituted subject is necessarily schizophrenic. Frozen in the vertigo of communication ecstasy, in the saturation of information and communications space, it is "bereft of every scene, open to everything in spite of himself, living in the greatest confusion" (133). But there is, perhaps, another alternative. As Donna Haraway also tells us, we are living in an age in which a distinction between the mechanical and the biological no longer holds.* Nostalgia for a past in which the biological and the "human" held sway is part of a larger cultural, metaphysical fantasy; not only is the "biological" not the pristine, edenic, and natural moment that we thought it was, but it was and is always mechanized. In other words, we are all cyborgs. The problem, then, is not simply how the "human" might establish itself as a category and/or catachresis in relation to the "machine," but also how one might mark and establish subjectivity and agency in a technocratic age. On the one hand, the web seems to call the category of the "human" into crisis, but on the other, this category is recuperated and put back in its place of privilege via the means of its mechanical reproduction.
In short, we find ourselves in the midst not of a world of authors and author/readers, but of the Foucaldian 'author function' in which, "the author's name manifests the appearance of a certain discursive set and indicates the status of this discourse within a society and a culture." In this context, all authors, readerly and otherwise, vanish in the face of the author function of HTML. The author of this chronology, for example, is not Laura Mandell, or Alan Liu, or the Many Wolves, but a hypertext programming language that invites all hypertext authors to experience the ecstasy of communication. In the context of this particular hypertext project, then, what are we to make of the call for writerly readers if we have already decided that authoring itself is not an embodied function? Does it make sense to talk about the reader as author if the status of the category of author as agent has already been exploded? From this perspective, it becomes possible to see Mandell and Liu's desire for texts that facilitate writerly reading not so much as a call for texts that will make embodied authors out of unsuspecting embodied readers, but as a call for the proliferation of a technology of writing the facilitates the disembodiment of all authors -- one that facilitates the substitution of screen>network for self>other as a means of experiencing the ecstasy of communication. The web in general and this chronology in particular might function as a prosthetic research device -- a prosthesis that replaces or "dislocates the Sovereign Subject," as Mandell hopes. However, it might also reinstate that same subject, by offering up a fantasy of a supplement, a technological form that may be manipulated and controlled by its users.
This may sound quite similar to Mandell's hope that students will "assert their own subject positions" through the act of writerly reading; but the underlying dynamics are actually quite different. As Roland Barthes writes in his "Death of the Author," "Writing is the destruction of every voice, every origin" (1130), as a result of which the Reader becoms the "very space in which are inscribed, without any of them being lost, all the citations out of which a writing is made" (1132). But it is worth remembering that, even for Barthes, "This destination [the reader] can never be personal" (1133); hence, we must view any subjectivity which arises at the cite of reading as impersonal as well. In the end, the writerly reader subject position reveals itself to be equally as empty as that of the Author. What this paradigm fails to take into account, however, is the specific effect the technology of the Web has on the nature of writing and subsequently on the production of subjectivity. In his essay "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", Walter Benjamin remarks that while much thought had been devoted to the question of whether photography was an art, "the primary question -- whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art -- was not raised" (227). It is precisely this 'primary question' that today must and can be answered in the face of the hyper/text, a technological form that has transformed the status of the text and the very nature of writing.
Notes to Laura Mandell's Statement
 I am not denying here that feminist texts were written earlier; I believe that feminism before Wollstonecraft is often referred to as "protofeminism" to distinguish it from the kind of feminism that emerged momentarily in the early Romantic period and with greater vigor in the mid-nineteenth century: feminism that calls for and actually tries to accomplish concrete legal and social reform.
 Marlon Ross, "Breaking the Period: Romanticism, Historical Representation, and the Prospect of Genre," ANQ 6.2-3 n.s. (1993): 121-31; Thomas Vogler, "Romanticism and Literary Periods: The Future of the Past," New German Critique 38 (Summer 1986): 131-60.
 Pierre Bourdieu, "The Aristocracy of Culture," in Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, 1979, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1984) 6, 28-9; John Guillory, Cultural Captial: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993) ix, xi.
 Hayden White, "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality," Critical Inquiry: On Narrative 7.1 (1980): 1-25.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, 1, 66-8.
Notes to Alan Liu's Statement
[Cultural Literacy] E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1987). Hirsch's book includes a much-famed (and for some infamous) list of cultural bric-a-brac that "every American needs to know."
709. Hard winter. Duke Gottfried died. 710. Hard year and deficient in crops. 711. 712. Flood everywhere. 713. 714. Pippin, mayor of the palace, died. 715. 716. 717. 718. Charles devastated the Saxon with great destruction. 719. 720. Charles fought against the Saxons. 721. Theudo drove the Saracens out of Aquitaine. 722. Great crops. 723. 724. 725. Saracens came for the first time. 726. 727. 728. 729. 730. 731. Blessed Bede, the presbyter, died. 732. Charles fought against the Saracens at Poitiers on Saturday. 733. 734.
As White points out, it is difficult to see what determines the annalist's selection of significant events--or where significant units of history either originate or terminate--because an annals is not properly "about" a narrative subject (such as the rise and fall of a king, dynasty, tribe, etc.). Where did those Saracens in 725 come from, for example? If that was the "first time" they came, then when was the second time that made saying "first time" possible? What do the Saracens have to do with the crops, or with Bede?
["Chronicle"] Discussing as his paradigm of the "chronicle" form the History of France written by Richerus of Rheims ca. 998, White (pp. 17 ff.) notes that the work has more story-form than an annals but is crucially incomplete: "the account does not so much conclude as simply terminate; it merely breaks off with the flight of one of the disputants for the office of archbishop and throws onto the reader the burden for retrospectively reflecting on the linkages between the beginning of the account and its ending. The account comes down to the writer's own 'yesterday,' adds one more fact to the series tht began with the Incarnation, and then simply ceases."
[Thousand Plateaus] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Biran Massumi (Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota Press, 1987). Deleuze and Guattari's simultaneously psychological, social, physical, and moral paradigm of "rhizomatic" as opposed to hierarchical structure has been much appropriated in recent literary theory and criticism. Some sense of what they mean by "deterritorialization" can be grasped in the following sentence: "Every rhizome contains lines of segmentarity according to which it is stratified, territorialized, organized, signified, attributed, etc., as well as lines of deterritorialization down which it constantly flees" (p. 9).
[Eye of Vigilance] A short gloss from Alan Liu's Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1989), p. 136: "We know that the fiery Eye of Reason (itself a displacement of the traditional Eye of God) opened at the top of reproductions of the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789 and later, in its character as the Jacobin oeil de la surveillance or Vigilant Eye, also opened over the world of the Mountain [a name for the Jacobins] in 1792-93. . . ."
["everywhere?] Or, if there are indeed vast domains of human history to which the Web remains blind (e.g., in Africa or China where there are few literal Internet "domains"), the linkway down which the Romantic Chronology points the user still far exceeds the subject. Click on "William Wordsworth," for example, and choose the link for modern bed and breakfasts in the Lake District; then from those pages find "Beatrix Potter" and thus the gateway to an entirely different period.
[Many Wolves] This is an allusion to the wickedly funny chapter titled "1914: One or Several Wolves?" in A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 26-38. It is also the name that the UCSB Many Wolves Web-authoring collective has appropriated for itself.
Notes to Rita Raley and Carl Stahmer's Statement
Jean Baudrillard, "The Ecstasy of Communication," in Hal Foster, ed. The Anti-Aesthetic, (Seattle: Bay Press, 1983): 132.
This is a reference to Donna Haraway's, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, itself a cyborg (New York: Routledge, 1991).
See also Derrida's reading of the "technological condition" in "The Rhetoric of Drugs," differences 5 (1993): "The natural, originary body does not exist: technology has not simply added itself, from outside or after the fact, as a foreign body. Certainly, this foreign or dangerous supplement is 'originarily' at work and in place in the supposedly ideal interiority of the 'body and soul.' It is indeed at the heart of the heart. Rushing things a bit, I would say that what, without being absolutely new, now takes on particular and macroscopic forms, is this paradox of a 'crisis,' as we superficially call it, of naturalness" (15).
Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author," in Hazard Adams, ed. Critical Theory Since 1965, (New York: , 19).