Homing pigeon: the postal principle and Lynn Hershmann's 'Conceiving Ada'

Turner, Lynn. 2010. 'Homing pigeon: the postal principle and Lynn Hershmann's 'Conceiving Ada''. In: Derrida Today. London, United Kingdom 19-21 July 2010. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Writing of Freud’s vexed attempts to step beyond the pleasure principle, Derrida remarks that there is ‘no legacy without transference’. Lynn Hershmann’s digital feature 'Conceiving Ada' (USA, 1997) concerns a contemporary computer scientist’s attempt to rescue a ‘forgotten woman’ from a history that restricted her genius. Emmy’s efforts to save the titular Ada, Countess of Lovelace, to both her computer’s hard drive and to her unborn daughter’s DNA are presented and critically discussed as the confirmation of a new feminist present. Yet the film indulges its digital fantasy as one in which the technological capacity to archive has been perfected and thus past lives can be accessed, known and saved without loss or alteration – the dream of communication that Derrida has addressed as precisely the incalculability of address. It even figures the agent that Emmy devises with which to reach Ada as a bird, one whose flight is contracted always to return like a homing pigeon.

In light of the postal principle’s persistent destinerrance, this paper speculates on the fort-da of Conceiving Ada: Emmy’s drive to make Ada present - to make Ada da, the effort to seal tele as telos – the telos that ‘should’ have been hers, and the enticing transference this film solicits between feminine subjects as the gloss over its troubled ambitions.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


20 July 2010Completed

Event Location:

London, United Kingdom

Date range:

19-21 July 2010

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

27 Jul 2011 09:40

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 11:06



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