chapter  8
Ordering Law, Judging History: Deliberations on Court TV
Pages 21

To illustrate the proper use of the word "archive" in its definition of the term, Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary offers the following sentence, taken from Richard Allestree's seventeenthcentury tract on correct speech and judgment entitled The Government of the Tongue: "Our words ... become records in God's court, and are laid up in his archives as witnesses:'! Bringing together notions of recording, witnessing, and judging in his guide to ethical life through speech, Allestree conjures an image of a heavenly court that also serves as a sort of evidence file of enunciations, a realm of both law and the chronicling of discursive details, which-if only we could see these court records-might finally provide us with the means to know and to value appropriate codes for living. Yet what are the relations that exist between discursive, judicial, archival, and viewing systems? What does it mean to come to know life through court recording, and how is that knowledge produced, held, and disseminated, whether through immediate divine law or our own mediated versions? How might we visualize this court and this archive, and what effects-discursive, epistemological, ethical-might therefore emerge? In this essay, I attempt to approach such lofty questions through what might appear to be a somewhat lowly route, for I take this image of court proceedings which one might witness and record, not as just metaphorically instructive, but quite literally: as the image that I witness on my television set when I tune in to Court TV.