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Déjà Vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory

Peter Krapp
Volume: 12
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Déjà Vu
    Book Description:

    This provocative book examines the history of déjà vu, offers a counterpoint to clichéd celebrations of cultural memory and forces us do a double take on the warnings against forgetting common in our time. Reaching from the early texts of Sigmund Freud to the plays of Heiner Müller, this exploration of the effects of déjà vu pivots around the work of Walter Benjamin.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9586-7
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Been There, Done That
    (pp. ix-xxviii)

    This book historicizes and theorizes déjà vu, from its first sustained discussions in the late nineteenth century to its latest cultural effects at the end of the twentieth century. Early theories on mnemopathology between philosophy and psychology yield a pre-Freudian logic of the cover-up, and later, media theories and cultural history screen each other over in turn. The French expression déjà vu was popularized in the pages of theRevue philosophiqueat the end of the nineteenth century. The psychological descriptions debated there ultimately prove insufficient for a full account of the cultural effects of déjà vu, as do the...

  5. 1 Secret Agents: Sigmund Freud in Reserve
    (pp. 1-30)

    Sigmund Freud offered some of the most influential explanations of failures of memory or of incomplete forgetting, and his ideas have entered the lexicon of popular consciousness as well as the dictionaries. But his theories all but cover over the prepsychoanalytic explanations that had been suggested earlier. And Freud developed several variations on his explanation of déjà vu. Thus for more than one reason, to read Freud closely means not taking anything as read. We have to account for the degree to which some of his thoughts may have become commonplace and thus tend to hide their presuppositions, and we...

  6. 2 Future Interior: Walter Benjamin’s Envelope
    (pp. 31-52)

    “Deja vu,” Walter Benjamin muses, “has been often described. Is the designation felicitous at all?”¹ It is the tedious familiarity of the descriptions that raises his doubt as to whether the term is at all apposite for the phenomenon. To him, déjà vu is not merely that which has already been seen, or is falsely recognized as what has already been seen, it is something else altogether. The secret of the experience is not the tedium of an unwelcome familiarity of vision: one should speak instead of incidents, he recommends, that come upon us like an echo of an event...

  7. 3 Posthistoire in Ruins: Heiner Müller’s Hydrapoetics
    (pp. 53-70)

    More directly than the work of any other German playwright or poet, Heiner Müller’s writing commented upon the political theater and cultural debates of Germany, both in the splits of the postwar, preunification era and around post–Berlin Wall, post–cold war tensions. Paramount among his convictions was the determining force of our relations with the dead. He observed sharply how in the past, history and politics had galvanized around the repression of mortality.¹ Art, by contrast, was to cultivate its heritage in communication with the dead. To allow the dead a place in society was in his eyes an...

  8. 4 Andy’s Wedding: Reading Warhol
    (pp. 71-96)

    Andy Warhol used any and every available technology to communicate, and above all to communicate the fact that he was communicating, but he never worried about the success or failure of communication—it was going to be repeated anyway.¹ “Non-communication” was not a problem—“I think everyone understands everyone,” he said; yet he remained detached, even remote: “I don’t want to get involved in other people’s lives . . . I don’t want to get too close . . . I don’t like to touch things . . .that’s why my work is so distant from myself . . .”²...

  9. 5 Unforgiven: Toward an Ethics of Forgetting
    (pp. 97-118)

    In film, according to the influential film theorist Christian Metz, “everything is recorded (as a memory trace which is immediately so, without having been something else before).”¹ What Metz describes as an imaginary relation to time is indeed the structure of déjà vu, recording a past that was never present before it came to consciousness as past.² This uncanny repetition exacerbates the already complex dialectics of repetition. We assume that what is repeated has been, or it could not be repeated. Yet that it has been makes repetition something new. So strictly speaking, repetition is impossible; even more so when...

  10. 6 Screen Memories: Hypertext
    (pp. 119-142)

    Increasingly, reading and writing take place in front of the computer screen, and the expectations concerning new forms of interaction with data storage and access are high. Computer mediated communication in particular and screen media in general seem to put into question what older institutions and archives had to offer.¹ The transition from analog to digital media is perhaps too readily understood as a shift from continuity to fragmentation, from narration to archaeology. One might view it as a process of translation, since what is completely untranslatable into new media will disappear as fast as what is utterly translatable. The...

  11. 7 Wrapping It Up: Mummy Effects
    (pp. 143-154)

    If déjà vu is neither forgetting nor memory, if both are already caught up in its logic of the cover, one ought to recapture a sense that the déjà vu is impossible to recapture. In addition to the turn, around midcentury, that adds a second and pejorative meaning to the formerly haunting, uncanny experience, there is now, at the turn of another century, a renewed onslaught of wordplay and nonce words based on déjà vu. Some are analogous to the tedium of repetition—after Warhol, we are not surprised by “Degas vu” (so familiar that his originality repeats itself) or...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 155-214)
  13. Index
    (pp. 215-218)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-219)