This article problematizes cultural studies' recent return to the“thing,” assessing the archive's position in research work. I draw on my experience of consultation of the surviving records of the Lord Chamberlain's theater censorship office in order to demonstrate that the archive's seductive charms often serve to conceal its flaws. This archive's undeniable allure obscures the contingency of its construction, its destructive powers, and the way in which its contents remain vulnerable to interpretative violence. These observations are measured against the metaphorical and theoretical frameworks which continue to condition our approach to the archive, coming to rest at the place where the procedures and concerns of psychoanalysis overlap with those of archaeology. I conclude that any study of this archive requires both a theoretical redefinition of the concept of the archive and the introduction of a rigorous ethical framework which foregrounds the interpretative investment of the researcher.

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