Collective Memory and the Historical Past

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University of Chicago Press, Nov 25, 2016 - History - 268 pages
There is one critical way we honor great tragedies: by never forgetting. Collective remembrance is as old as human society itself, serving as an important source of social cohesion, yet as Jeffrey Andrew Barash shows in this book, it has served novel roles in a modern era otherwise characterized by discontinuity and dislocation. Drawing on recent theoretical explorations of collective memory, he elaborates an important new philosophical basis for it, one that unveils profound limitations to its scope in relation to the historical past.

Crucial to Barash’s analysis is a look at the radical transformations that symbolic configurations of collective memory have undergone with the rise of new technologies of mass communication. He provocatively demonstrates how such technologies’ capacity to simulate direct experience—especially via the image—actually makes more palpable collective memory’s limitations and the opacity of the historical past, which always lies beyond the reach of living memory. Thwarting skepticism, however, he eventually looks to literature—specifically writers such as Walter Scott, Marcel Proust, and W. G. Sebald—to uncover subtle nuances of temporality that might offer inconspicuous emblems of a past historical reality.

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The Sources of Memory
Part 1 Symbolic Embodiment Imagination and the Place of Collective Memory
Part 2 Time Collective Memory and the Historical Past

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About the author (2016)

Jeffrey Andrew Barash is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Amiens in France. He is the author or editor of many books, including Martin Heidegger and the Problem of Historical Meaning and The Social Construction of Reality: The Legacy of Ernst Cassirer, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

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