Narrating the Archive and Archiving Narrative: The Electronic Book and the Logic of the Index

By Rosamund Davies.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The creation of my hypermedia work Index of Love, which narrates a love story as an archive of moments, images and objects recollected, also articulated for me the potential of the book as electronic text. The book has always existed as both narrative and archive. Tables of contents and indexes allow the book to function simultaneously as linear narrative and non-linear, searchable database. The book therefore has more in common with the so-called ‘new media’ of the 21st century than it does with the dominant 20th century media of film, video and audiotape, whose logic and mode of distribution are resolutely linear. My thesis is that the non-linear logic of new media brings to the fore an aspect of the book – the index – whose potential for the production of narrative is only just beginning to be explored. When a reader/user accesses an electronic work, such as a website, via its menu, they simultaneously experience it as narrative and archive. The narrative journey taken is created through the menu choices made. Within the electronic book, therefore, the index (or menu) has the potential to function as more than just an analytical or navigational tool. It has the potential to become a creative, structuring device. This opens up new possibilities for the book, particularly as, in its paper based form, the book indexes factual work, but not fiction. In the electronic book, however, the index offers as rich a potential for fictional narratives as it does for factual volumes.

Keywords: Narrative, Archive, Index, Database, Electronic Texts

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.45-56. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.232MB).

Rosamund Davies

Lecturer, Department of Creative, Critical and Communication Studies, University of Greenwich, London, UK

Rosamund Davies has a background in script editing and writing. She lectures in media and creative industries at the University of Greenwich, specialising in writing for the screen and screen narratives. Her research and practice interests focus on the convergence between print and screen media and on the intersection between narrative and archive as cultural forms.

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