The after-life of memory
The After-Life of Memory registers the widely held perception of a "memory crisis" in the latter half of the twentieth century. It asserts that this crisis is an historical and theoretical construct based on assumptions that need to be questioned. In their assertions that memory is sick, tired, or beyond repair, writers convey their anxieties about the future and reveal their participation in a long history of philosophical inquiry about the status and value of the past. Each of the factors that conspire to form the memory crisis have long histories of their own. It is not, then, the singularity of the memory crisis that recommends it to our attention. Rather, the reproduction of such a crisis in our cultural moment offers us the opportunity to analyze the role of memory in our lives. From the writers who survey the terrain of the memory crisis, we can gather that they believe memory is in some way essential. These writings try to find a vocation for memory in an era that threatens to make it obsolete.Contemporary fiction participates in the project of rehabilitating memory as an individual faculty and as a social practice. That project has involved a variety of attempts to define something called "collective memory." However, in the context of our historical moment, both of those terms are problematic. In the fiction of writers like Toni Morrison, Italo Calvino and Salman Rushdie, we can see the struggle to define the two terms of "collective memory" and, at the same time, explore the complex inter-relationships between the two.
- English