Not only does the library have a long and complex history and politics, but it has an ambivalent presence in Western culture – both a site of positive knowledge and a site of error, confusion, and loss. Nevertheless, in literary studies and in the humanities, including book history, the figure of the library remains in many senses under-researched. This collection brings together established and up-and-coming researchers from a number of practices – literary and cultural studies, gender studies, book history, philosophy, visual culture, and contemporary art –with an effective historical sweep ranging from the time of Sumer to the present day.

In the context of the rise of archive studies, this book attends specifically and meta-critically to the figure of the library as a particular archival form, considering the traits that constitute (or fail to constitute) the library as institution or idea, and questions its relations to other accumulative modes, such as the archive in its traditional sense, the museum, or the filmic or digital archive. Across their diversity, and in addition to their international standard of research and writing, each chapter is unified by commitment to analyzing the complex cultural politics of the library form.

chapter |19 pages


Unpacking the Library

chapter 1|20 pages


chapter 2|16 pages

‘Under a Heap of Dust They Buried Lye, within a Vault of Some Small Library'

Margaret Cavendish and the Gendered Space of the Seventeenth-Century Library

chapter 3|24 pages

Outside the Archive

The Image of the Library in Hitchcock

chapter 4|17 pages

Reading in the Library of Catastrophe

W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn

chapter 7|20 pages

Classifying Fictions

Libraries and Information Sciences and the Practice of Complete Reading

chapter 8|14 pages


For Lovers of Libraries

chapter 9|21 pages

‘That Library of Uncatalogued Pleasure'

Queerness, Desire, and the Archive in Contemporary Gay Fiction

chapter 11|22 pages

Cataloguing Architecture

The Library of the Architect

chapter 12|15 pages

Reading Folk Archive

On the Utopian Dimension of the Artists' Book