Memory, Trauma, and History
In these essays, Michael S. Roth uses psychoanalysis to build a richer understanding of history, and then takes a more expansive conception of history to decode the cultural construction of memory. He first examines the development in nineteenth-century France of medical criteria for diagnosing memory disorders, which signal fundamental changes in the understanding of present and past. He next explores links between historical consciousness and issues relating to the psyche, including trauma and repression and hypnosis and therapy. Roth turns to the work of postmodern theorists in connection with the philosophy of history and then examines photography's capacity to capture traces of the past. He considers how we strive to be faithful to the past even when we don't care about getting it right or using it productively. Roth concludes with essays defending pragmatic and reflexive liberal education. Drawing on his experiences as a teacher and academic leader, he speaks of living with the past without being dominated by it.
Subjects: History, Philosophy, Language & Literature
This paper has two objectives: one is to explore the dialectics of remembering and forgetting, an issue traditionally neglected in psychological memory research; the other is to question the widespread dichotomy of individual and social memory. To do so, a cultural-historical perspective is outlined that allows us to conceive of individual memory as an inextricable part of an overarching cultural discourse, the discourse of cultural memory. In this discourse, narrative practices are of central importance because they combine various cultural symbol systems, integrating them within one symbolic space. In order to explain and illustrate this conception of narrative, a historical memorial and work of art is examined. Three narrative orders of this artwork are distinguished—the linguistic, semiotic and performative or discursive—and discussed as particular forms of meaning construction. Together, they constitute a mnemonic system, a symbolic space of remembering and forgetting in which the time orders of past and present are continuously recombined.