Memoir and Memory II: the Theater of Memory and Ways We Forget

A sudden loss of consciousness
Photo credit: Pulpolux
Note: This post is a continuation of the last, which began with musings on memory 1-10. 

Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.                                       – Walter Benjamin

11. There is a branch of sociology (and other disciplines) called memory studies. (I am so happy about this.) It investigates things like the ways memory impacts culture and the role memory plays in collective and individual identity.

12. This makes me think of how tremendously satisfying it can feel to remember together, how it can forge and strengthen connections with others.

13. A sociologist named Paul Connerton, a pioneer in the field of memory studies, has posited that there are seven types of forgetting.

14. One of the seven types of forgetting, repressive erasure, refers to the forced forgetting of language and customs by which a government or state may seek to control a people. Forgetting as a form of violence.

15. Families do this, too.

16. On the other hand, we need to forget in order to remember. If we remembered every single thing, we’d wander through our present in a haze of our past – every experience, every emotion as close at hand as if it had just taken place.

17. Some recent research by neuroscientists seems to indicate that memory is a creative act. The more times we recall a memory, the more we alter it. We can’t keep our fingerprints off it. We are storytellers, all of us, making myth of our lives.

18. We continuously craft our narratives, revisiting the memories that make us who we think we are. We save the memories that sync with our self-image. We save the memories that save us.

19. Another kind of forgetting: Forgetting That Is Constitutive In The Formation Of A New Identity. In other words, when a memory doesn’t jibe with our shifting identity it’s vulnerable to being forgotten.

20. I wonder how our newfound, digital age habit of ferociously documenting our lives will impact the experience of remembering. Will Google and Facebook serve as mnemonic triggers for memories that would otherwise be lost?

21. I like the word recollect. I like the image it conjures, the implications of scattering, retrieval, repetition. I have been recollecting. I will recollect.

22. Aldous Huxley said, “Every man’s memory is his private literature.” Some of our memories are dog-eared books, well-worn, scrawled over the years with marginalia. But I wonder about the books on our shelves that we haven’t read, the stories we don’t know that we know.


2 thoughts on “Memoir and Memory II: the Theater of Memory and Ways We Forget

    1. Thanks, Nicole. That looks really interesting. (I only had time this evening for the first five minutes. My first thought was, I didn’t know Michael Pollan sported a comb-over.)


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