- Oct 2022
So there is nothing exaggerated in thinking that Barthes would havefinally found the form for these many scattered raw materials (indexcards, desk diaries, old or ongoing private diaries, current notes,narratives to come, the planned discussion of homosexuality) ifdeath had not brought his work and his reflection to an end. Thework would certainly not have corresponded to the current definitionof the novel as narration and the unfolding of a plot, but the historyof forms tells us that the word ‘novel’ has been used to designate themost diverse objects.
Just as in Jason Lustig's paper about Gotthard Deutsch's zettelkasten, here is an example of an outside observer bemoaning the idea of things not done with a deceased's corpus of notes.
It's almost like looking at the "corpus" of notes being reminiscent of the person who has died and thinking about what could have bee if they had left. It gives the impression that, "here are their ideas" or "here is their brain and thoughts" loosely connected. Almost as if they are still with us, in a way that doesn't quite exist when looking at their corpus of books.
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one finds in Deutsch’s catalogue one implementation of what LorraineDaston would later term ‘mechanical objectivity’, an ideal of removing the scholar’s selffrom the process of research and especially historical and scientific representation (Das-ton and Galison, 2007: 115-90).
In contrast to the sort of mixing of personal life and professional life suggested by C. Wright Mills' On Intellectual Craftsmanship (1952), a half century earlier Gotthard Deutsch's zettelkasten method showed what Lorraine Datson would term 'mechanical objectivity'. This is an interesting shift in philosophical perspective of note taking practice. It can also be compared and contrasted with a 21st century perspective of "personal" knowledge management.
the bottom right of each card was adorned with abbreviated citations,often more than one.
The cards in Deutch's zettelkasten were well cited, typically using abbreviations which appeared in the bottom right of each card, and often with multiple citations.
He was especially enamored with cross-references, which weremarked in red type;
Deutch's zettelkasten is well cross-referenced and he showed a preference for doing these in red type.
If he initially wrote hiscards by hand, the vast majority were typewritten with Hebrew words written in blankspaces when required.
While many of Deutsch's cards were initially written by hand, the majority of them are typewritten and included blank spaces for Hebrew words when required.
In one way, the cards’ uniform size and format was part of Deutsch’sdream to produce a systematic method of research and writing.
Deutsch’s index, then, did not constitute the systematic and overarching view ofJewish history and contemporaneous Jewish issues that Deutsch had initially hoped tocreate. Instead, it was much more personal. It reflected his singular reading regime, and itworked with a certain shorthand: In later years Deutsch often just cited ‘Yiddish papers’or ‘Daily papers’, and in some instances he referred to ‘private information’. The cards,topics, and sources provide a sense of the specific information that interested Deutsch.
Further, very few cards areout of order, suggesting that Deutsch may not have extensively removed sets of cards toshuffle them into novel patterns, as returning them would probably have resulted in out-of-place items.
This would seem to contradict his statements about some of the orderings and chaos earlier.
One must also ask the question about use and curation of the collection following his death?
There is also very limited metadata. Many of the cross-references, referencing cardslike PIUS X or GERMANY, 1848, to give just two examples from this set, provoke one towander the corridors of cards searching for what Deutsch had in mind.
According to Lustig, Gotthard Deutsch's zettelkasten had limited metadata and cross-references didn't always connect to concrete endings. (p12)
This fact can help to better define the Wikipedia page on zettelkasten.
Further, Deutsch triedto instill a certain chronological, geographical and thematic method of organization. Butthis arrangement is also a stumbling block to anyone who might want to use it, includingDeutsch. ACCUSATIONS AGAINST THE JEWS (489 cards), for instance, presents an array ofevents organized not by date but in a surprisingly unsystematic alphabetical order. Insteadof indicating when such accusations were more or less prevalent, which could only beindicated by reorganizing cards chronologically, the default alphabetical sorting, whichshows instances in disparate locations like London (in May, 1921) alongside Sziget,Hungary (from 1867), gives the impression that such anti-Jewish events were everywhere.And even this organization was chaotic. The card on Sziget is actually listed under‘Marmaros’, the publication with which the card’s text began, and an immediately pre-ceding card is ordered based on its opening ‘A long list of accusations . . . ’, not thereference to its source: Goethe’s Das Jahrmarketsfest zu Plundersweilern.
Lustig provides a description of some of the order of Gotthard Deutsch's zettelkasten. Most of it seemed to have been organized by chronological, geographical and thematic means, but often there was chaos. This could be indicative of many things including broad organization levels, but through active use, he may have sorted and resorted cards as needs required. Upon replacing cards he may not have defaulted to some specific order relying on the broad levels and knowing what state he had left things last. Though regular use, this wouldn't concern an individual the way it might concern outsiders who may not understand the basic orderings (as did Lustig) or be able to discern and find things as quickly as he may have been able to.
one recognizes in the tactile realitythat so many of the cards are on flimsy copy paper, on the verge of disintegration with eachuse.
Deutsch used flimsy copy paper, much like Niklas Luhmann, and as a result some are on the verge of disintegration through use over time.
The wear of the paper here, however, is indicative of active use over time as well as potential care in use, a useful historical fact.
All this was listed in alphabetical and chronological order over a total of about 50boxes,
Deutsch's zettelkasten consisted of about 50 boxes and was done in alphabetical and chronological order.
Altogether, one finds an interminable assortment of facts on almost anytopic, with major sections relating to blood accusations and blood libels, fiction andliterature, the Passover Haggadah, memoirs, mixed marriages, orthodoxy, Palestine,periodicals, and universities, but also obscure topics including hunting, Russian Jewishdwarfs, and myths and magic.
Deutsch's zettelkasten seems to have been done in index style using headwords as was common in the older commonplace tradition.
He sometimes pasted newsprint cuttings to present a statistical chart or inserted
Deutsch's zettelkasten has a variety of patterns including cuttings from newspapers, photos, excerpts, some were handwritten while others were typed, (and some showing many of these all at once!).
If in 1908 itcontained 10,000 cards, by 1917 it had ballooned in size to 50,000 items, reaching60,000 in 1919 and nearly 70,000 at the time of Deutsch’s death in 1921 (Deutsch,1908b, 1917b; Brown, 1919: 69). It seems that Deutsch consistently produced 5,000cards per year (about 20 per workday) for the final 13 years of his life.
Look up these references to confirm scope of numbers.
‘He knows everything that’s happened fromB’reshis [Genesis] to today’, it went, ‘and it really isn’t work to him – it’s merely play’,a sentiment later expressed when one colleague wrote of Deutsch’s ‘game of cards’(Margolis, 1921).3
Apparently a colleague wrote about Deutsch's "game of cards" as a description of hit use of a zettelkasten. The play here is reminiscent of the joy Ahrens talks about when doing research/reading/writing (2017).
- ars excerpendi
- C. Wright Mills
- handwriting vs. typing
- cards of equal size
- zettelkasten are idiosyncratic
- material culture
- game of cards
- group notes
- Gotthard Deutsch
- topical headings
- personal knowledge management
- geographical order
- Gotthard Deutsch's zettelkasten
- On Intellectual Craftsmanship
- notes per day
- mechanical objectivity
- cross references
- Lorraine Datson
- card stock
- paper data storage
- chronological order