Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Book sections

« Memory »

Abstract : According to Paul Zumthor, the Middle Ages occupies a specific position in our collective memory since this period provides the most obvious term of comparison for readers from the end of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century. Modern medievalism grew in Europe and the United States precisely at this time, when western societies began to feel the uncertainty of the future and the distance of the medieval past. According to Pierre Nora, since the seventies and eighties “our present time [has been] promoted and doomed to memory, that is fetishism of traces, of historian obsession, of patrimonial capitalization [. . .] Everything [has] become historical, deserves to be remembered, and to be kept in memory.” Are these two phenomena – memory and medievalism – connected? Memory (Latin memoria, Greek mnēmē) may be defined as the faculty to preserve and evoke representations of past and absent things – facts or states of mind – and bring them to the present: to presentify and actualize them; or, to put it briefly, to keep information in mind and recall it. Still, memory, as conceptual “crossroads,” belongs to multiple fields and possesses multiple applications: in biology (heredity, neurophysiology), history and psychology, social sciences and humanities, modern technology (computers). Throughout the twentieth and the twenty-first century, the concept has expanded by analogy and metaphor. As Pierre Nora has remarked, it is not possible to reduce memory to a mere opposition to oblivion or to a shared experience. Memory is best understood in conceptual pairings: present and past, present and future, faculty and result, spontaneity and will, private and public, remembering and forgetting, praise and criticism, oral and written. Memory is both a faculty and a result; it is a synonym of remembrance, like vestige, remnant, trace, or remanence. More precisely, it is usually conceived, after Aristotle, either as mnēmē – a spontaneous remembrance, close to an affection (Ricœur) – or anamnesis, that is the result of a voluntary effort to recall. Nevertheless, these related concepts are not antonyms; they are to be understood in a dialectics with forgetting. Memory is also made of oblivion because it is sometimes discontinuous, as the fortune of texts, writers, or motives reveals: their history is made of disappearances. Besides, memory is torn between preservation of the past and creation of an image, always risking that the latter will become a delusion. Since memory, both individual and collective, is not inherited, but is the result of a construction, one may try and define the nature of the relation between memory and medievalism: is memory a staple of history and medievalism, or is it a construction? Can we indeed “remember” the Middle Ages, and if so, what Middle Ages do we “remember” since we cannot rely on a personal and direct experience of the Middle Ages? The issue is particularly acute in literature and the arts, which offer a form to express memory: since medievalism is forced to rely on images, which are the mode of appearance of the “representation of the past,” what is it but a form that is another (further) mediation? What is the limit between image and imagination, and where does invention, or fiction, begin?
Keywords : medievalism memory
Document type :
Book sections
Complete list of metadata

https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-03119342
Contributor : Ea 4395 Lettres Idées Savoirs Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Saturday, January 23, 2021 - 6:42:09 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 4:09:46 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, April 24, 2021 - 6:09:33 PM

File

Ferré, Memory - Key Critical ...
Files produced by the author(s)

Identifiers

  • HAL Id : halshs-03119342, version 1

Collections

Citation

Vincent Ferré. « Memory ». Elizabeth Emery, Richard Utz. Medievalism: Key Critical Terms, Boydell & Brewer, pp.133-140, 2014. ⟨halshs-03119342⟩

Share

Metrics

Les métriques sont temporairement indisponibles