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Performing the Past

Performing the Past: Memory, History, and Identity in Modern Europe

Karin Tilmans
Frank van Vree
Jay Winter
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Performing the Past
    Book Description:

    Special EURO 10,- discount for our ABG readers: now EURO 24,50 instead of EURO 34,50Performing the Past is an investigation of the multiple social and culture practices through which Europeans have negotiated the space between their history and their memory over the past 200 years. In museums, in opera houses, in the streets, in the schools, in theatres, in films, on the internet and beyond, narratives about the past circulate today at a dizzying speed. Producing and selling them is big business; if the past is indeed a foreign country, there are tens of thousands of tourist agents, guides, and pundits around to help us on our way, for a fee, to be sure.This collection of essays by renowned scholars from, among others, Yale, Columbia, Amsterdam Oxford, Cambridge, New York University and the European University Institute in Florence, is essential reading for anyone interested in today's memory boom. Drawing on different national and disciplinary traditions, the authors ultimately engage us with the ways in which Europeans continue a venerable tradition of finding out who they are, and where they are going, by performing the past.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1202-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-8)
    Karin Tilmans, Frank van Vree and Jay Winter
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-10)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction. The performance of the past: memory, history, identity
    (pp. 11-32)

    Memory performed is at the heart of collective memory. When individuals and groups express or embody or interpret or repeat a script about the past, they galvanize the ties that bind groups together and deposit additional memory traces about the past in their own minds. These renewed and revamped memories frequently vary from and overlay earlier memories, creating a complex palimpsest about the past each of us carries with us.

    Thus the performance of memory is both a mnemonic device and a way in which individual memories are relived, revived, and refashioned. Through performance, we move from the individual to...

  6. Framework

    • CHAPTER 2 Re-framing memory. Between individual and collective forms of constructing the past
      (pp. 35-50)

      Over the last decade, memory has been acknowledged as a ‘leading concept’ of cultural studies.¹ The number of books and essays that have appeared on the subject already fill whole libraries. The memory discourse is quickly expanding. There is a growing number of different approaches to cultural memory which exist side by side without taking much notice of one another, let alone engage in a discussion of their various underlying axioms and goals. What the memory discourse still lacks is theoretical rigour, an integral as well as differentiated view of the enterprise, and a self-critical investigation of its central concepts....

    • CHAPTER 3 Repetitive structures in language and history
      (pp. 51-66)

      ‘There is something peculiar to these love stories: they always seem to revolve around the same thing, but the way they start and end is so infinitely varied that it is anything but uninteresting to watch them!’ Anyone unable to read this quotation in the original language will miss the Viennese lilt, but they will still be able to guess the author: Johann Nepomuk Nestroy.²

      The beginning and end of all love stories – or the alpha and omega of every love – are as infinitely different as the number of times lovers find one another and part or are...

    • CHAPTER 4 Unstuck in time. Or: the sudden presence of the past
      (pp. 67-102)

      Since 1989, the past is no longer what it used to be, and neither is the academic study of the past – that is theGeschichtswissenschaft. No historian had predicted the total collapse of the Soviet bloc and the sudden end of the Cold War, the ensuing German unification and the radical reshuffling of global power relations. A similar story goes for the other two ‘epochal’ and ‘rupturing’ events of the past two decades: ‘9/11’ and the economic meltdown of 2008.¹ Therefore, academic historians can claim very little credit for their traditional role as the privileged interpreters of the present...

  7. The Performative Turn

    • CHAPTER 5 Co-memorations. Performing the past
      (pp. 105-118)

      This exploration starts from the crossroads where two popular recent approaches to cultural history meet: the study of memory and the study of performance.¹ It may be useful to distinguish at the start of this essay on the performance of memory between different kinds or genres of performance. At one extreme, we find historical plays from Shakespeare to Strindberg and beyond or the historical operas of Verdi, say, or Glinka; in other words, performances that are tightly organized, fully scripted, and carefully rehearsed. At the other extreme, there are loosely organized, unscripted, and unrehearsed attempts to re-enact past events in...

    • CHAPTER 6 ‘Indelible memories’: the tattooed body as theatre of memory
      (pp. 119-146)

      In 2003 the Staten Island Historical Society (SIHS) in New York mounted a photographic exhibition, ‘Indelible Memories: September 11 Memorial Tattoos’, commemorating the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The tattoos on display had for the most part been acquired by firefighters and police officers who had been involved in the rescue effort, or by family members of those who had perished when the towers collapsed. The fact that this exhibition took place on Staten Island was not coincidental. The Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City, is home to a largely white working-class, Catholic population...

    • CHAPTER 7 Incongruous images. ‘Before, during, and after’ the Holocaust
      (pp. 147-174)

      In the summer of 1998, our parents/in-laws, Lotte and Carl Hirsch, visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) photo archive where they had been invited to donate some of their family pictures from Czernowitz, the East European city where they were born, grew up, and survived the Holocaust.² The photos were intended to enhance the museum’s small archival collection of images from that city and the Bukowina province of which it had once been the capital (fig. 7.1). Selected pictures would be catalogued by date, place, and type, and labeled with additional information provided by the donors. Some of...

    • CHAPTER 8 Radio Clandestina: from oral history to the theatre
      (pp. 175-184)

      ‘I was reading Alessandro Portelli’sThe Order has Been Carried Out’, writes Mario Martone, a filmmaker and former director of Rome’s public theatre, ‘and I could almost hear the voices of the many witnesses, women especially, that run through it. I thought there was the material there for a performance that would allow us to really hear these voices as they tell their stories’.¹

      The Order has Been Carried Outis an oral history narrative of the memory, meaning, and history of the most traumatic and symbolic event in the history of World War II in Italy: the Nazi massacre...

  8. Media and the Arts

    • CHAPTER 9 Music and memory in Mozart’s Zauberflöte
      (pp. 187-206)

      As an art working with time and addressing the ear, music, like poetry, requires and challenges memory. As early as the fourth century, Augustine used the example of music to illustrate his meditations on time and memory, describing the process of understanding a melody that unfolds in time,¹ and Edmund Husserl, in hisUntersuchungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins, used music as the most obvious example of how memory and expectation or, in his terminology, retention and protention, cooperate in the perceptive construction of a melody.² Perceiving and understanding a melody requires memory, the same kind of short-term memory which...

    • CHAPTER 10 The many afterlives of Ivanhoe
      (pp. 207-234)

      Despite poor health foreshadowing his death later that year, Walter Scott spent the spring of 1832 with his son and daughter in Naples. He was fêted by all and sundry, among others by the Austrian minister who organized a masquerade ball in his honour on the theme of the Waverley novels. The invitations to this literary masquerade apparently led to some commotion, Scott’s son Charles describing how ‘one beautiful Italian woman has been in tears for the last week because her family are too Catholic to allow her to take the character of Rebecca the Jewess’.² Refusing a Catholic permission...

    • CHAPTER 11 Novels and their readers, memories and their social frameworks
      (pp. 235-256)

      This chapter focuses on literature and the reading act as a nodal point, a relay station, in the dissemination (in space) and transmission (across generations) of cultural memory. In doing so, it draws attention to three interrelated problem areas: 1) the currency of literature is principally shaped by the language of its expression, whereas the currency of memories is principally shaped in societal or political frameworks; 2) the social and political frameworks (i.e. states and institutions) in which cultural memories are current can be less durable and more fluid than the canonicity of certain literary texts; 3) the literary evocation...

    • CHAPTER 12 Indigestible images. On the ethics and limits of representation
      (pp. 257-284)

      Barely two years after the Second World War had ended, a few of the barracks on the former site of Auschwitz-Birkenau were rebuilt. Along with the restoredAppellplatz, they served as the set for The Last Stage (Ostatni Etap), a film by the Polish director Wanda Jakubowska, who had been interned for years herself, first in the women’s concentration camp at Ravensbrück, later in Auschwitz. By filming on location, she and her fellow prisoner Gerda Schneider, the scriptwriter, wanted to create the most authentic possible image of the horrors that they had experienced, but also of the close ties of...

  9. Identity, Politics and the Performance of History

    • CHAPTER 13 ‘In these days of convulsive political change’. Discourse and display in the revolutionary museum, 1793-1815
      (pp. 287-304)

      The French Revolution of 1789 marked a breech with the past on a scale unprecedented in Western history. The foundations of what was to become known as theAncien Régimewere shaken to the core, even wrecked, with iconoclastic violence. The revolutionaries found it in their best interest for this break with the past to seep into the public’s consciousness. Hence the demolition of the Bastille, the decree to remove all symbols reminiscent of the Ancien Régime, the storming of the royal tombs in Saint-Denis (only partly prohibited by Alexandre Lenoir), and the decapitation of the king and queen of...

    • CHAPTER 14 Restitution as a means of remembrance. Evocations of the recent past in the Czech Republic and in Poland after 1989
      (pp. 305-334)

      After the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe, new democratic governments had to confront the issue of what to do with the perpetrators of repression and human rights violations, and to what extent and how to compensate the victims. Among the various instruments of post-Communist transitional justice implemented in the countries of the region, we can distinguish between retributive and reparatory measures. Decommunization and lustration were meant to exclude certain categories of functionaries of the Communist regime from holding important positions in the democratic state, and thus named the perpetrators. Other instruments, such as the rehabilitation of political...

    • CHAPTER 15 European identity and the politics of remembrance
      (pp. 335-360)

      Many authors have noticed the symbolic deficit that affects the European institutions. European citizens do not feel attached to them. For some this is the inevitable result of a process of integration that is the spill-over effect of economic integration, while for others it is the consequence of the quasisupranational character of the European Union. The current European context is a very interesting case for the study of memory building, both because it is characterized by a complex process of pooling and sharing of sovereignty between nation-states and supranational institutions and because it is a processin fieri. The European...

  10. About the Authors
    (pp. 361-366)
  11. List of Illustrations
    (pp. 367-368)