Document Type



January 2010


great books movement


German Literature


This article examines controversies arising from the perception of the instruments of cultural memory and the logic of their transmissibility. On the one hand, we have a carefully selected, temporally and geographically orchestrated body of texts, the Great Books, which are an enduring testament to the authority of Western intellectual artifacts. On the other hand, Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever locates a furtive transformation of collective memory in the informal practices exemplified by oral narrative and public discourse. Not only do both models rely on archives as a functional instrument of collective identity, but they also value them as institutions circumscribing social and cultural conventions. However, when synchronizing the traces embedded in oral discourse and written documents, the repositories are frequently subject to manipulation by interpretive communities. Recognizing the processes underlying archives and artifacts is essential to comprehending how canons and canonic practices impact Western cultural memory.

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