Stallybrass, “Against Thinking”

One of the first theoretical pieces I encountered on the Digital Humanities was Peter Stallybass’ “Against Thinking,” which I read in last semester’s American Lit seminar. Stallybrass is specifically addressing Ed Folsom’s Walt Whitman archive, but, more broadly, he discusses the way in which archival databases have restructured how we think about knowledge, ownership, and even plagiarism.

21st century search tools reveal overlapping citations that implicate Shakespeare of, shall we say, “generous borrowing.” Stallybrass is fairly forgiving of Shakespeare’s use of others’ phrases, arguing that Shakespeare, long before copyright law, actually practiced his own version of “database”–an interesting thought, that relates nicely to our discussion of Charles Reade and others.