- Documentation: A History and Critique of Attributions, Commentary, Glosses, Marginalia, Notes, Bibliographies, Works-Cited Lists, and Citation Indexing and Analysis
It has been said that if you open any serious knitter's closet, a dozen unfinished sweaters will come tumbling out. Somehow, it's the edges and seams that are the hardest to complete. Documentation—footnotes and endnotes, maps and graphs, works-cited lists, and so on—is the scholar's sleeves and collars, tidied up largely at the behest of editors and their incessant deadlines. Robert Hauptman seeks to shift the ancillary and the marginal from the closets to the center of book history in this lively scholarly monograph.
Hauptman begins by making his case for giving documentation our attention. He opens his text with a brief discussion of why we cite, locating the reasons for documentation in six admittedly "sometimes mutually exclusive purposes," including "acknowledgement, attribution, tracing, validation, protection against accusations of misconduct, and tangential substantive commentary" (7). He [End Page 501] grounds the process of documentation in contexts of both history and meaning. Hauptman briefly traces documentation's history, beginning with the call to hail one's predecessors in the oral tradition and taking its story up to the increasingly specialized citation requirements of contemporary scholarly publishing that plague particularly the sciences. With these overviews in hand Hauptman examines documentation thematically, exploring eight aspects, including commentary and its role in Talmudic scholarship and medieval texts, the purpose of marginal notes (both published and those made by readers in their own copies of texts), the place of maps and illustrations in texts, and the histories of citation systems. The book is amply illustrated, and the pages reproduced from the Book of Hours and Diderot's Encyclopedia beg for an edition in color and on fine paper, the better to display documentation systems that sometimes reach the level of art.
Hauptman covers a lot of territory here, displaying a remarkable breadth of knowledge both on the subject of citation (he marshals a broader range of documentation scholars than the reader would have thought exists) and on the history of literature in general. In this relatively brief volume Hauptman evokes Eliot, Coleridge, and Joyce; David Foster Wallace and Jacques Derrida; Isaac Newton and the benzene ring of Friedrich August Kekulé. Hauptman's engaging embellished history of documentation is nevertheless forged around a solid scholarly account. He often becomes emotionally engaged in his subject, for example, bemoaning the demise of the footnote at the hands of cost-cutting publishing houses and calling the advent of Web-based bibliographies a "barbarism" (125). Simply because documentation often appears neutral doesn't mean Hauptman has to be.
Hauptman saves the bulk of his criticism for postmodern experiments with documentation. He pays special attention to Jacques Derrida's Glas, a book that deliberately plays with font styles and text placements in order to call into question the structure of printed texts themselves. Calling this "a type of madness" that "succeeds admirably, to the point of total confusion" (101), Hauptman resists the postmodern tendency to shift and play with structure. Ultimately, Hauptman's scholarly affections are reserved not simply for the structures of documentation themselves but for the order they impose. While the contemporary reader might balk at his wholesale dismissal of postmodernism and other trends, Hauptman succeeds in opening a conversation that, prior to Documentation, would likely not have taken place at all. [End Page 502]