Interesting work on memory
November 29, 2021 10:45 PM   Subscribe

What work has moved you or influenced how you think about memory?

Philosophy, science reporting, art, fiction, poetry... about individual memory, cultural memory, the physiological or social process of memory or forgetting.
posted by latkes to Religion & Philosophy (20 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
For me, Lyn Hejinian's My Life, e.g. "A name trimmed with colored ribbons" (some background, randomly googled, here and here).
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:03 PM on November 29, 2021


Another Lynne - Lynne Kelly's The Memory Code, which elaborates her thesis on the techniques that allowed people in non-literate cultures to memorise huge amounts of information, and Memory Craft, a more practical book of memory techniques and how to integrate them into your life.
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 11:20 PM on November 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


Radiolab episode on memory

(It seems appropriate that I have a distinct but perhaps incorrect memory of listening to this podcast episode on a bus in Bulgaria in 2009, though I’m not sure through what media since I didn’t yet have a smartphone. Perhaps I somehow got it onto my iPod)
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 12:23 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


The Borges short story “Funes the Memorious.”
posted by ejs at 1:14 AM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


Uncle Tungsten was so vivid and absorbing that for months memories of events in the book sometimes felt almost like memories of my own experiences.
posted by jamjam at 2:07 AM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the question: it has allowed me to de-conflate The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1930) the autobiography of mystical soldier Francis Yeats-Brown from The Art of Memory (1966) by the esoteric historian Frances Yates. I must have read them at about the same time when I was binge-reading through the school library. The latter traces Memory Palace (Method of Loci) techniques from Simonides of Ceos onwards. 20 years later I was recommended to read The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (1984) by Jonathan Spence: that's a bit heavy. And 20 years after that I enjoyed Moon-walking with Einstein (2012) by Joshua Foer, which is a lighter gallop. None of this has helped me locate the car-keys.
And snap jamjam, I am even at this moment re-reading Uncle Tungsten.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:23 AM on November 30, 2021


Enduring Love by Ian McEwan is fun for examining the perils of memory through narrative.
posted by jojobobo at 2:39 AM on November 30, 2021


I never made it past the first half-book of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time series, but it belongs on any list of interesting works about memory, surely. I certainly was moved by his classic description of eating madeleines soaked in tea and being transported back to childhood.
posted by guessthis at 2:57 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five
Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. Billy has gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day. He has walked through a door in 1955 and come out another one in 1941.
posted by oldnumberseven at 3:41 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Camera Obscura by Roland Barthes.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 4:18 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Seconding Frances Yates. In searching for this I found this list which mentions a later book building on Yates's work, The Craft of Thought by Mary Carruthers.

Woolf's novels, specifically To the Lighthouse, The Years and Between the Acts, and some of the criticism of them. I can't track down a book which I read specifically on time in Woolf, by a philosopher rather than a literary critic. But there is quite a lot of other coverage, such as this chapter, which I have read, and also just found this article in the Marginalian.

Children's timeslip novels in general - Penelope Lively's A Stitch in Time and The House in Norham Gardens, Alan Garner's Red Shift, Jill Paton Walsh's A Chance Child, Penelope Farmer's Charlotte Sometimes, Phillipa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden. There are a lot of others.

Priestley's plays Time and the Conways and I Have Been Here Before, very dated now.

Angela Thirlwell's biography of William and Lucy Rosetti, which is structured thematically rather than from birth to death.

William de Morgan's novel Alice-for-Short.

Lots of memoirs about Alzheimer's. There are some good lists in this New Yorker article and here and here.

Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind, by Patricia Meyer Spacks.

Interesting question, thanks.
posted by paduasoy at 6:22 AM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


Over the past couple of years I've been steadily acquiring and reading everything I can find by Penelope Lively, because I greatly enjoy the way she explores memory in her fiction for both adults and children.

Sometimes she allows the landscape itself to remember; that comes up a lot in her children's novels, where it overlaps with timeslips and hauntings. In her adult fiction (short and long), more often she addresses the way we're constantly ambushed by our own past, remembered moments coexisting with the real world around us as the things we experience spark our memories. Or she considers the difference between a living person and the memory of a person who is no longer alive. For instance, right now I'm on page 42 of The Photograph, and a woman is remembering her deceased sister:

"Hanging on like this in the shape of my lip, thinks Elaine. And in my mind. And in Glyn's and I dare say in Nick's and I suppose in Polly's and in those of a great many others. Many different Kaths. Personal Kaths. She is fragmented now. The dead don't go; they just slip into other people's heads."

I would recommend specific titles, but honestly she comes back to the theme so often that I think you could probably pick up just about anything of hers and find something of interest.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:28 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Since most of the suggestions so far cover individual memory, I'll suggest Tangled Memories, an important cultural studies approach to collective /social memory. Much of Sturken's analysis of the 70s and 80s lays groundwork for what we're experiencing in American society today.
posted by nantucket at 6:44 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


I just watched the How To Improve Your Memory episode of How To with John Wilson. It's, um, a pretty weird show (Nathan Fielder is executive producer).
posted by Twicketface at 7:35 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed the book Moonwalking with Einstein, about forming memory palaces. (Just realized I'm seconding that)
posted by Mchelly at 7:58 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


JG Ballard's Empire of the Sun. It's an autobiographical novel about Ballard's experience as a boy in China during WWII. There's a quote of his that set me to thinking about memory: "I spent the first half of my life trying to forget what happened, and the second half trying to remember it." Memory as a reconstruction of the narrative of one's life, rather than mere recall, has stuck with me.
posted by SPrintF at 8:38 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


James Joyce, "The Dead"
posted by adventitious at 9:59 AM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Lewis Hyde's A Primer for Forgetting is an excellent rumination on memory and forgetting.
posted by hilaritas at 12:45 PM on November 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


The Future of Nostalgia by Svetlana Boym
posted by umbú at 6:53 AM on December 1, 2021


Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern (contains extensive discussion of sexual assault)
Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse by Jennifer Freyd, a research psychologist who experienced childhood sexual abuse, and accounts of the "memory wars" sparked by her parents' campaign to discredit her
Christopher Bollas on the unthought known
posted by stuck on an island at 3:01 PM on December 1, 2021


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