Introduction

Article excerpt

Just hours before midnight this past December 31, I celebrated the receipt of an email from a dear friend of mine in Europe. How good it was to see his "Happy New Year 2010" on the screen! He went on to write, however, that it is a sad state of affairs when, rather than a human voice, or even a human script, it is an electronic mail that conveys such well wishes. Perhaps I would once have considered his comment nostalgic, something akin to Heidegger's lament of the overtaking of manuscripture, in its essential bond to speech, by the typewriting machine. Yet, after reading my friend's message, I took from the shelf a book he recently published and sent me--inscribed in his-only script. And I recalled my find earlier that same New Year's Eve of a precious scrap of paper signed in my now-dead father's hand.

In lieu of a telephone call, an email, a scrap of paper, or--as is the case in the Brokeback Mountain texts, Annie Proulx's 1997 short story and Ang Lee's 2005 film--a postcard. "Postcards are phenomenological objects par excellence," Andrea Fitzpartick writes in the first essay in this issue, "because condensed within their small, flat, paper borders are the legacies of geographic distances travelled by the postcards and the hands through which they have been passed. Postcards capture the touch of the lover's hand in the penmanship and the dried saliva under the stamp," and in Brokeback Mountain, they establish an "erotic, haptic contact" between the separated lovers, Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist. Fascinated with postcards herself, Annie Proulx (whose 1997 novel is titled Postcards), uses the postcard in Brokeback Mountain as what Fitzpatrick, following Roland Barthes, calls a "figure of affect. …