Navigating This Review: As An Archive

The Text

Bessette examined a wide range of primary sources in order to show how American lesbian collectives leveraged retroactivist rhetorical practices and accessible technologies in order to compose their own archives. Each such archive, Bessette asserted, is a singular retroactivist project that legitimizes lesbianism in particular ways, since each was “crafted for particular audiences in response to historically specific exigencies facing women with same-sex desire” (p. 2).

The four main media forms that Bessette identified—place-based archives, text-based archives, independent film, and online new media—are of course vastly different in terms of their accessibility, affordances, materiality, and relationships to corporate-capitalist hegemony, and as a result, Bessette faced a challenging project in bringing the four together here. However, by focusing on each medium as a technology accessible to the queer community of its time, Bessette was also able to identify shared rhetorical characteristics—such as appeals to an audience—that unified her argument well.

This Review

This review is itself imagined in the form of an archive. Similar to the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA) that Bessette visited in Chapter 2, this review offers a range of materials for visitors to browse in any order they deem most interesting or productive to their own experience.

Archival Materials

The material indexed by subject matter (top navigation pane) constitutes an archive of the text itself, focusing on Bessette’s own work. Thus, its contents include the organization and content of Retroactivism as well as Bessette’s key engagements with rhetorics and technologies.

The material indexed by medium (side navigation pane) is of two types. The higher pane lays out the intersection of rhetorics and technologies that Bessette maps within each particular archive, while the lower pane links out of this review to digital spaces connected with each lesbian archive Bessette visited, such as the LHA homepage.