Memory, Trauma, and History: Essays on Living with the Past

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Columbia University Press, Nov 22, 2011 - History - 384 pages
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Intellectual historian Michael S. Roth has spent more than two decades exploring the way we make meaning out of the past. This collection features his most influential essays, in which he 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.

His collection consists of five sections. The first examines the development in nineteenth-century France of professional criteria for diagnosing memory disorders—criteria that signal fundamental changes in the understanding of present and past. The second section explores links between historical consciousness and issues relating to the psyche, including trauma and repression and hypnosis and therapy. Roth next examines the work of postmodern theorists in light of the philosophy of history. Then he considers photography and its capturing of traces of the past, which propose connection while acknowledging otherness. Roth focuses on piety and how it turns us to the past, or how we strive to be faithful to the past without necessarily getting it right or using it well. Roth concludes with essays on the promises and risks of liberal education, calling for a pragmatic and reflexive approach to thinking and learning. Drawing on his vast experiences as a teacher and academic leader, Roth speaks of living with the past without being dominated by it and of remaining open to the possibility of sharing our lives with others.

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About the author (2011)

Michael S. Roth is the president of Wesleyan University and the author of five books, including The Ironist's Cage: Trauma, Memory, and the Construction of History and Knowing and History: Appropriations of Hegel in Twentieth-Century France. He has also edited several books of intellectual and cultural history, and he curated an exhibition entitled Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture, which opened at the Library of Congress.

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