Committing the Future to Memory: History, Experience, Trauma

Committing the Future to Memory: History, Experience, Trauma

Sarah Clift
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Committing the Future to Memory: History, Experience, Trauma
    Book Description:

    Whereas historical determinacy conceives the past as a complex and unstable network of causalities, this book asks how history can be related to a more radical future. To pose that question, it does not reject determinacy outright but rather seeks to explore how it works. In examining what it means to be "determined" by history, it also asks what kind of openings there might be in our encounters with history for interruptions, re-readings, and re-writings. Engaging texts spanning multiple genres and several centuries from John Locke to Maurice Blanchot, from Hegel to Benjamin Clift looks at experiences of time that exceed the historical narration of experiences said to have occurred in time. She focuses on the co-existence of multiple temporalities and opens up the quintessentially modern notion of historical succession to other possibilities. The alternatives she draws out include the mediations of language and narration, temporal leaps, oscillations and blockages, and the role played by contingency in representation. She argues that such alternatives compel us to reassess the ways we understand history and identity in a traumatic, or indeed in a post-traumatic, age.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5424-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    In the preface to the second edition of theScience of Logic, Hegel refers to “the peculiar restlessness and distraction of our modern consciousness.”¹ Although the tone of this statement makes it sound like something to be avoided or at any rate minimized, a moment’s reflection tells us that for Hegel, it is one of modernity’s irreducible and most definitive components. Superficial though it may be, restlessness is nonetheless also the forerunner of negativity, what he calls elsewhere the “seriousness, the suffering, the patience and work of the negative.”² Finally, for Hegel, this restlessness is the active dimension without which...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Narrative Life Span, in the Wake: Benjamin and Arendt
    (pp. 8-40)

    Jacques Derrida’s lecture “Mnemosyne,” written shortly after the death of Paul de Man and devoted both to his work and to the friendship they shared, opens with a statement that is as complex as it is succinct. Its tone is sorrowful, compounding the loss to which it testifies by indicating from the outset what the lecture willlack: “I,” he writes, “have never known how to tell a story.”¹

    His disquiet, Derrida goes on to explain in the lines that follow, is grounded in what is said to link storytelling to memory: “And since I love nothing better than remembering...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Memory in Theory: The Childhood Memories of John Locke (Persons, Parrots)
    (pp. 41-73)

    As we saw in Chapter 1, one of the achievements of Arendt’s and Benjamin’s critiques of history is to have drawn attention to the ways in which modern history effectively eliminates the dimension of human experience from its discursive structure. The question remains, though, as to how to situate the concept of experience with respect to this devaluation, especially given that one of the single most important innovations of modern philosophy was to have grounded knowledge in experience itself. In short: If modern history all but eliminates experience from its discourse, it is no less the case that the modern...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Mourning Memory: The “End” of Art or, Reading (in) the Spirit of Hegel
    (pp. 74-131)

    Despite the more complicated reading of Locke’sEssaythat I hope to have generated in Chapter 2—especially in terms of the kinds of temporality that are generated when memory is understood to be mediated in and through language—it nonetheless remains the case that a more conventional understanding of Locke’sEssayprevails in discussions of memory and identity, ones that tend to see Locke as relegating language and sociality to positions of incidental or secondary importance. When we disregard the complex forms of relation and of temporality that considerations of language introduce into Locke’s theory, we are left with...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Speculating on the Past, the Impact of the Present: Hegel and His Time(s)
    (pp. 132-171)

    To argue for a rigorous reading of the “end” of historical time in Hegel is, in some sense, the condition for thinking the experience of narrative time in a mode other than that of the simple linearity of continuous progression. In Chapter 3, we demonstrated how Hegel’s complex mode of narrating the pastness of “art in its highest determination” generates an understanding of past and future that goes beyond the notion of two distinct moments on a temporal continuum and conceives narrative temporality in terms of how an aspect of futurity is at work in it, not as a horizon...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE In Lieu of a Last Word: Maurice Blanchot and the Future of Memory (Today)
    (pp. 172-200)

    To end with a discussion of the work of Maurice Blanchot is rife with difficulties, two of which I will mention by way of beginning. The first involves the sheer difficulty of reading his work. While to be sure, this seems to be something of a “side issue,” it is one with important consequences: An encounter with Blanchot’s texts—whether those of his fiction, his criticism or the aphoristic, fragmentary texts of the later years—induces a deep feeling of exposure and vertigo, the negativity or indeterminacy of which is hardly conceivable as a mediating moment toward a higher reconciliation,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 201-236)
    (pp. 237-246)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 247-256)