Notes: Barbara E. L’Eplattenier, “An Argument for Archival Research Methods: Thinking Beyond Methodology”

L’Eplattenier, Barbara E. (2009). An argument for archival research methods: Thinking beyond methodology. College English, 72(1), p. 67-79.


L’Eplattenier is responding in the text to the need for the discipline of rhetoric and composition/writing studies to develop practical understandings of how to do archival work. L’Eplattenier notes that the methods employed may often be too specific toward particular projects and archives, but encourages thoughtfully articulating thorough methods sections to create incremental disciplinary understandings of archival work that may allow for more generalizing.

Keywords: Archives, historiography, histories of rhetoric, methodology


“Finally, because archival historical work is often so unique—each archive, each situation, each study is different, with different resources, different access, different constraints—generalizing about archival work can be difficult, especially for the individual researcher” (p. 68).

“A good methods section, however we construct it, offers us details regarding the circumstances of the research and pulls back the curtain on work done. It lets us see the man behind the curtain, so to speak. It is a pedagogical model to show our students—a way to familiarize ourselves with how to ‘do’ histories” (p. 72).


As terms that often become vexed, fraught, or problematically reduced, I appreciated L’Eplattenier giving a clear differentiation between method and methodology. She writes, “Just as methodology allows us to theorize the goals of our research, methods allow us to contextualize the research process or the researched subject and materials” (p. 69). I was reminded of something that Derek said after our think-tank session at Cs this passed year on the middle ground between method and methodology, when he said, “Something we call methodology might travel by the name of theory. Something we call method might travel by the name of practice.” It seems important to L’Eplattenier’s central concern in the piece to do some of this differentiation. The importance of this differentiation allows for research to be engaged with by not only novices, but other audiences with each project more fully.

Her discussion of the work that a methods section does seems important across research methods, as they allow for interrogation of the work and allow for a conversation about how knowledge is produced disciplinarily. She writes,

An actual methods section shows us the cracks, fissures, and gaps to allow us to see the construction. It allows us to more clearly point out our blind spots, our areas we didn’t realize we could research, our awareness of the fragmentary nature of archival work. If all histories are constructions, then a methods section allows us to see the building blocks of that construction. We can see which section of the foundation is strong or weak, where we can build a wing, where we can add a door (p. 74).

This in some ways reminds me a bit of a hauntology that leaves a certain openness for others to enter into and the work that hauntology does to interrogate histories as constructed, but on a different scale and talking about a different relationship. Rather than discussing the relationship between researcher and subject, L’Eplattenier discusses the relationship between the researcher, audience, and future researchers.

Provenance also seems like a compelling means to discuss the representation of evidence that speaks to the work of doing history. She writes, “By positioning the transcript with other documents and stating the difficulties with it, we did not accidentally misrepresent it or what we learned from it” (p. 73). This speaks to some of the ways that research design can be accomplished, but also makes as visible as one perhaps can the means by which a history is constructed.

Notes: Michelle Ballif, “Historiography as Hauntology: Paranormal Investigations into the History of Rhetoric”

Ballif, Michelle. (2013). Historiography as hauntology: Paranormal investigations into the history of rhetoric. In Ballif, Michelle (ed.), Theorizing histories of rhetoric (p. 139-153). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.


Ballif articulates hauntology as a historiography methodology which resists ontologizing or epistemologizing historical narratives in favor of contending with the radical singularity of events, whose excesses extend beyond ‘knowing.’ Hauntology signals a kind of rhetorical listening that unsettles static notions of addressor and addressee that occupy central positions in rhetorical theory, (dis)placing both.

Keywords: historiography, hauntology, histories of rhetoric, Derrida, methodology


“The ethical obligation to listen to these unfamiliars is not motivated by a desire to render them (finally) familiar, which—againis an attempt to bury the remains (finally), but rather to render ourselves unfamiliar (as scholars and as a discipline)” (p. 140).

“To write as if a listener is to listen precisely to that which is excluded, to that which our modes of understanding have excluded, to that which—therefore—lies at the threshold of our understanding. And there, at that (non)place, at that border or threshold, the uncanny manifests itself in a continuous ‘unsettling (of itself)'” (p. 152-153).


I’m thinking a lot about Steedman’s “Something She Called a Fever: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust,” in which she takes up some of the central claims of decentering time in historiography and archival methods. The archive, for Steedman, has no beginning and cannot have a beginning—each document is captured “in medias res” with so much beyond or absent from the archive that claims at closure of time become fraught (1175). She writes:

Contemplating Everything, the historian must start somewhere, but starting is a different thing from originating, or even from beginning. And while there is closure in historical writing, and historians do bring their arguments and books to a conclusion, there is no End—cannot be an End, for we are still in it, the great, slow-moving Everything (1177).

I’m thinking too of Rickert’s work in Ambient Rhetoric on chora—which, at once, refers toward invention or origination but also toward its own receding from that invention (62-63). The radical singularity of an event toward some of this: by placing the addressor as somehow central toward rhetorical action—and in this case, representing histories of rhetoric—invents, and withdraws the work of its invention, origination and imposes linearity of time. A hauntology unsettles this and muddles the addressivity of speakers and events.

Queer rhetorics seems to, if tacitly, work toward such hauntology—if nothing else than by understanding queerness as historically being that which haunts heterosexual presents/presence (a la Foucault History of Sexuality and Sedgwick Epistemology of the Closet). Morris’s “Archival Queer” and Alexander and Rhodes’s “Queer Rhetorics and the Pleasures of the Archive” talk about queer archives as restlessly moving and pushing against boundedness of heterosexual spatiotemporalities in ways that seem attentive to this radical singularity and the both absence and presence of excesses in such work.

What I especially find interesting is the disciplinarity focus of hauntology. Hauntology resists modes of knowing and others the researcher and the field. This ethical gesture of listening acknowledges our unknowing and resists the creation of grand narratives—it seems especially interesting to be thinking of this so close to the celebration of CCR’s 20th anniversary as a program and hearing the narratives created, documented, and told at that celebration.