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Trimalchio put:

in the "False Documents in Art" section, and I can't remember any false documents in Watchmen (although it's been quite a while since I read it). Please explain, if you're going to move it back.

There are numerous "Newspaper articles" and framing information included in the Watchmen story that fill in some of the background (and in some cases provide vital clues as to what's really going on). But otherwise I can't really see how it fits here. -- DrBob

And various other fake "sources" (memos, sections of autobiography), I don't know if that qualifies as False document since, to be honest, I found the article hard to follow.

Well, this is where fluidity comes into play for literary technique... I suppose maybe there should be at least two lists for the art.
Art that IS a false document by its nature. Art that USES false documents to create an effect.
This is true for a lot of literary tricks and conceits, and I guess there is no easy answer to it. The Watchmen falls more under the second category... and clearly so. But I wonder about adding the second category because it leads to a kind of endless equivocation. What I meant by just one category is that these are works of art that find false documents to be central to the way they tell their tale. All kinds of other things use false documents, but in many cases only in small ways. Does Laura Palmer's Diary make Twin Peaks fall into this list? I don't think so... though the diary itself might fit. Anyway, I felt that Watchmen used false documents in a centrally important way, especially because verisimiltude in general was so important as it worked in opposition to the cartoonish origins of the material. So, while the work is not entirely composed of false documents, the documents that are used have a central thematic and technical role in the drama... especially Rorshach's psychiatric history and the Pirate Comic that plays as counterpoint to the larger narrative (and is the product of one of the kidnapped artists). The whole book, in a way, is about levels of authenticity. Is Roshsach the real masked hero because of his intense personal conviction, or is it Night Owl because of the level of energy and money that he dedicated to more and more elaborate toys and masks? The book is all about props and masks and a general investigation of "realness" and "perfection." It tries to inspect the depth and literality of an Ubermensch in a naturlistic setting. There is a kind of arms race of realness going on in the evolution of super heros as described by the book, starting with a masked wrestler, then a masked cop, then techno-dilletantes and madmen and vigalantes, finally culminating in Doctor Manhattan--the hero that is so "real" that he not only makes superheroes obsolete, he makes all of mankind irrelevant. For all of these reasons I felt that this book centrally exployed the kind of issues of authenticity that false documents are all about.
By contrast, From Hell may use documentary evidence, but in no way does it explore these kinds of issues or make an issue of whether something is false or not. I only mention it to show that there is something outside of my working definition of a false document. However, the criticism is well put and graciously taken. I wonder what you guys think. --trimalchio

Excellent answer, trimalchio -- thanks!


Say what? How could Currency of the American Confederacy qualify as a False document? Or am I not getting a ref?

Quite right. Hadn't thought that one through. As a northerner, I typically think of the southern seccession as politically ambiguous. So Confederate Currency is equated in my mind with the currency printed by Japan in WWII that they intended to use in captured territory, including new US Dollars... a kind of artificial statement of victory before the fact. But, upon reflection, I can see a whole galaxy of NPOV issues there. So, I have moved the material here for discussion.
False Documents in History
  • Currency of the American Confederacy

I don't buy this one at all either. Confederate currency was the legitimate, useful currency of a sovereign country. Soldiers were paid with it, and they bought food with it, and farmers traded with it. It only became wallpaper after the surrender. Calling it "fake" is like calling Webvan stock certificates "fake" just because they aren't worth anything anymore either. They were, nonetheless, legitimately traded when they were. --Lee Daniel Crocker

I agree that it doesn't belong on the page because the issues surrounding are too thorny, but the reason that Confederate Currency comes up as an issue when talking about false documents is because of the Authenticity problem. That is, if US Dollars are "real" and Monopoly Dollars are "fake" on this spectrum of Documentary Authenticity, what do we do with all of the stuff in between? This is Weschler's central issue in BOGGS. What makes something authentic, and another thing a forgery? Is Sealand money as real as US Dollars? Is Sealand money more real than Monopoly Money? Is it more or less real than confederate currency? In the end, the currency becomes a focal point of discussion because Confederate Currency exists in a kind of Schrodinger's Cat type-situation, existing forever between states, on the cusp of being real, but not quite. It's like Weimar Republic currency, or even, arguably, (from some points of view) US currency after stepping off the gold standard. It is not so much a false document as it is a case example of how all documents are one step away from becoming false. The only thing, from a certain point of view, that is real, is the transaction itself. Documents become arbitrary artifacts in a ritual of culture and faith. But, you are right, for all practical purposes the currency was real. --t

See the Pragmatists, Logical Positivists, and Wittgenstein (and for that matter, Philip K. Dick). Something is "real" in the senses we can use it. Monopoly money is "real" for playing Monopoly. U.S currency is "real" for buying things in the USA.

This is very interesting article!

"False document" is the usual technical term for the technique? --LMS

Well, it is only now being studied, and the terms haven't entirely settled down. I am relying on the version of this theory as put forth (in a sort of unofficial way) by Charles Baxter and Eileen Pollack at the University of Michigan, with whom I have done my own exploration. It's difficult to translate academics in motion to an encyclopedia... especially because I am a "staff member" of sorts and not an academic per se. --trimalchio
More to the point, I know of no established alternative term. Like I said, it is to my knowledge an unexplored (or underexplored) part of the discipline. The graduate seminar that Professor Pollack organized with my help was, at best, a university curiosity.

Aha. Well, all this should be stated very clearly in the article, I should think. Wikipedia isn't the place to publish new research, but since it's probably not entirely now, it's fine. Still, I think we should have details about the study of false documents, if that's the term used most by Baxter and Pollack and others, particularly that the theory behind it is all very new. --LMS


It appears that the wikipedian internal link to "Ova Prima" on the "False Document" article is BROKEN. Otherwise quite enjoyable, an interesting meme. -Flobie