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  • Introduction:Indexing Thinking, Thinking Index: Sahitya in Trans
  • Ranjan Ghosh (bio)

I seek notes that love one another.

—Mozart (cited in Haar 1993, 98)

Is citation (in)citation? Is thinking literature about literature "thinking"? Does indexing a book become a concept and culture and also a necessity and invitation to failure? Is thinking the "world" and the "comparative" an event in indexing? Is thinking about literature indexing our understanding? Is writing the "literary" indexing, too? What kind of "literary" does index foreground or unground? [End Page 801] Is indexing a way of looking at the post-literary also? How does this forum index our thinking of literature and think through the indexes of comparative and transcultural studies?

Is "college literature" a category of thought or a collegiate of ideas or a process of thinking or an experience of critical negotiations? Or an inclusive and encompassive indexing? A constructive and transitive indexing? An etymological digging around the word "college" identifies it as emerging from the Latin collegiums, "partnership," from collega, "partner in office," an assimilated form of com, "with, together" + leg-, stem of legare "to choose," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather" (https://www.etymonline.com/word/college). A forceful bluster of conceptual clusters in "partnership," "com," "collect," "gather" raises the energy of putting a college of literature (I prefer to call this the sahitya) together—a "thinking" in transgression, counter and co-construction. Index comes from Latin index, indic-"forefinger, informer, sign," from in-"towards" + a second element related to dicere, "say" or dicare "make known"; compare with indicate. The original sense "index finger" (with which one points) came to mean "pointer" (late sixteenth century), and figuratively something that serves to point to a fact or conclusion; hence a list of topics in a book ("pointing" to their location) (https://www.etymonline.com/word/index). An index has a pattern, a style, a definiteness of presence: alphabetical, sequential, nomenclatural and thematic—the complications and interstitiality between an index nominorum and an index rerum, one on names and the other on subject-matter (Bennington 1994, 274–76). Index synonymously becomes inventory, catalog, directory and guide—each expression has its own ramification and resonance. Index can sign-ify and be the measure of something and, hence, can lead, provide evidence, supply suggestion and become a mark and an implication. It can also be a "pointer on an instrument, showing a quantity, a position on a scale"; it becomes a record, can guide and locate, but, again, cannot be explanatory of the location and, often, fails to distinguish precise guidance from critical guidance. Urs Staheli points out that

sometimes a book without an index was even seen as a book not worth reading. … An index is like an academic or literary travel guide: it provides signposts, signals connecting paths, and points out what is worth seeing/reading. Etymologically, the index is a discoverer—it allows one to see and find what otherwise would be lost or forgotten (or would take a lot of time to retrieve). Because indexes [End Page 802] were seen as essential to a book, at the end of the nineteenth century it was even suggested that books without indexes should be forbidden.

(Staheli 2016, 17)

So indexing is an invitation to trace the trajectory of thinking of an "unknown laborer": it is a performative that lists, labors to elect and reject, desires to guide, and faces the limitations of his strategies and boundaries of the art. So indexing implicates a labor that stands "unnamed" but whose presence is felt. This is a labor that inspires reading with the center (author) and also speaks from within the center with an independence and intention that declare autonomy. So indexing a book, a culture, political events, inter-generic studies is asking for its own indexing. This is labor that paginates the center and makes itself available for paginations outside the folds of formal reading. So indexing has fealty to the book and yet unleashes a life outside it. Indexing and thinking, then, essentialize each other. What is indexed and what index tries to index have "little deaths" (Bynum 2005, 30) in between: disjunctive extension, as I'd like to call...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4286
Print ISSN
0093-3139
Pages
pp. 801-813
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-20
Open Access
No
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