Letter to a dead playwright : daily grind, Vicki Reynolds, and archive fever
journal contributionposted on 2012-05-01, 00:00 authored by Glenn D'Cruz
’Nothing is less reliable, nothing is less clear today than the word “archive”,’ observed Jacques Derrida in his book Archive Fever: a Freudian Impression (1996). This paper reflects on the unsettling process of establishing (or commencing) an archive for the Melbourne Workers Theatre, to form part of the AusStage digital archive which records information on live performance in Australia. Glenn D'Cruz's paper juxtaposes two disparate but connected registers of writing: an open letter to a deceased Australian playwright, Vicki Reynolds, and a critical reflection on the politics of the archive with reference to Derrida's account of archive fever, which he characterizes as an ‘irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement’. Using Derrida's commentary on questions of memory, authority, inscription, hauntology, and heritage to identify some of the philosophical and ethical aporias he encountered while working on the project, D’Cruz pays particular attention to what Derrida calls the spectral structure of the archive, and stages a conversation with the ghosts that haunt the digitized Melbourne Workers Theatre documents. He also unpacks the logic of Derrida's so-called messianic account of the archive, which ‘opens out of the future’, thereby affirming the future-to-come, and unsettling the normative notion of the archive as a repository for what has passed. Glenn D’Cruz teaches at Deakin University, Australia. He is the author of Midnight's Orphans: Anglo-Indians in Post/Colonial Literature (Peter Lang, 2006) and editor of Class Act: Melbourne Workers Theatre 1987–2007 (Vulgar Press, 2007).