On the Emergence of Memory in Historical Discourse

TitleOn the Emergence of Memory in Historical Discourse
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsKlein, Kerwin Lee
IssueSpecial Issue: Grounds for Remembering

This article discusses the emergence of new uses for an old word, "memory." It notes that during the 1980s and 1990s, a term abandoned by the mid-century academy returned as a keyword for history and theory. In this article, the author aims to reconsider the relationship between historical imagination and the new memorial consciousness, and he begins by mapping the contours of the new structures of "memory." The appearances of the word are so numerous, and its apparent meanings so legion, that it would take the work of a lifetime to begin disentangling them. Here the author wishes to do something different, namely, explore what these multifarious uses share. And he is interested in the word as a word, not in the various referents (from acts of recollection to funerary practices) at which it is aimed. How does a term popularized as an antihistorical concept become an identifying feature of new historicisms? How does a word associated with the sacred become part of a critique of metaphysics? And what are the effects of our new linguistic practice? 

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