Vismann 2001

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Vismann, Cornelia. "The Love of Ruins." Perspectives on Science 9.2 (2001): 196-209.

6th-c emperor Justinian -- clearing Roman Law of accumulated legal texts; purifying it "to create a sense of unity. His project to mend the dispersed and fragmented legal codes and judicial opinions into what would be later called a corpus had nothing less in mind than to restore the crumbling empire once again to its unified state." (197) -- putting a "wall" around the Digesta to shield it from alterations; appropriate metaphor for the time -- Constantinople was in shambles at the time

"At the same time as epigraphic fragments were being collected and used as a quarry to assemble the lawbook of all lawbooks, the ruins of the destroyed Hagia Sophia were being used to construct the churh of all churchs. In this way both Hagia Sophia and Justinian's legal creation were able to assume the same status as archetypes of eternal unity." (297)

"The consequence of Justinian’s rhetoric of puriacation was a distinction between pure things worth integrating into the corpus of law and impure ones having a clear derogative connotation as worthless, contaminated, and obscure. The wall that was supposed to surround the Digesta de- valued the very material that it eliminated, leaving it as mere text debris. For after the process of digestion what remains is simply that which has been eliminated." (197)

later scholars hated this purification, took pains to recover fragments; "Their method wasn't charaterized by the creation of a pure law from its impure materials, but instead by considering that supposedly pure law Justinian had created as incomplete, divested of its most important parts. It wasn't the easily readable, codified surface that interested these scholars; they were on the contrary attracted by that which the new law had turned into debris and made illegible. They fell in love with the textual ruins and it was precisely this love that drove their philological study of manuscripts." (198)

"Philology, which etymologically might be understood as a love of ruins, takes the material world it encounters as a remnant of a once complete world." (198)

"Humanist scholars didn't fall in love with the perfectly preserved old manuscripts of the Digesta when they were first rediscovered in the sixteenth century. Unlike Justinian, they admired them for their fragmentary nature from which they gathered a virtual completeness in the past." (198)

"Whatever philology takes as its epistemic object is treated as a ruin. Philologists employ a metaphorics of fragment in order to be able to approach the original unity of texts." (198)

"The nineteenth-century scholar no longer saw the traints of the ruined in the manuscripts of the Digesta, but instead viewed them under a positivistic light. The manuscript itself became a ruin, which could be measured, counted, and catalogued. The physis of the fragments took the place of virtual debris and the love of ruins became a fetish. The materiality of relics from distant times promised to establish contact between the present and the past. In contrast to the sixteenth century lawyers, the 19c scholar did not therefore make his way back to a lost unity and intactness of the past by thinking in terms of fragments, rather he believed that the broken historial pieces could themselves be assembled together again. In this view, real fragments generated historical fictions; history was told using what had been discarded and drew its truth from the physical existence of historical shards." (199)

Kantorowicz: "history is the work of imagination. Fragments contain an immprerative for the historian to tell the story of a former completeness." (199-200)

Heinrich von Kleist, "The Broken Jug": about how to tell narrative history from broken pieces of a jug

Johann Gustav Droysen, lectures 1856/7: two kinds of sources; soures that want to be, and sources that only become so through the way we use them. "He believed that remains accidentally left over are what grab the attention of the historian, precisely because they were not intended to be sources, something predestined for becoming history. They are the equivalent of historical flotsam and as such worthless without the love of the historian." (201)

remains, "Überreste" -- what is left over -- as opposed to what is thrown away; difference between relics and trash; relics still maintain material link to present -- "the continguity of remnants -- their ontact with the present by virtue of the permanence of their materiality" (201)

"doing history is imagined to work much like the process of codification. Historians use the existing material as a kind of quarry from which pure history can be extracted" (202)

"Remains are thus latent historical sources that can only become manifest for historians via a procedure that decontextualizes the from the present and recontextualizes them in the past -- a procedure that Droysen calls 'recognition of true place'. This historian of remains becomes an analyst who has to track the misplacements and the displacements of those locations. This procedure is in turn like that of the sixteenth-century humanist lawyers, with the difference that they began with the notion of a past intactness while Droysen begins with the positivity of the fragment. The old humanist understanding of fragments as allegorical is replaced yb Droysen's literal notion." (202)

"Unlike sources that are intended to hand down history and thus contain the expected, Droysen believes remains reveal real information about the past. Their incommensurability with conventional history, in other words, increases the value of their contents." (202) -- fragments as "accidentally recorded moments"; It is the accidental that points to the entrance to a lost past." (202)

Droysen: "apodeixis of remains" -- "the historical value of truth shows itself in the unintentional survival of the objects." (204)

"Since the historiography of the nineteenth century became conscious of the usefulness of historical remains as sources, there has been the suspicion that these “accidents” have been tainted by the desire for them. To put it differently: A theory of remains threatens to undercut the value of the remains in the first place." (204)

"To the extent that remains are administered more and more compre- hensively, the historian’s sources vanish the closer they approach their own present. Accidental remains can only be imagined as that which has es- caped the ordered utilization of refuse. The remains in Droysen’s sense are reduced to only that which escapes the prescribed path of waste utiliza- tion. That which avoids the clutches of the paper-shredder triggers the same mechanism as the archaeological remain: the reconstruction of a fragmented unity. Even recently shredded ales slated for recycling seem to urge us to put together the entire sequence of some past event from their bits and scraps." (205)

"what remains" as a mode of dealing with material -- reading between the lines to "wrest files from their archival intentions" (205-6)