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Performing Arts History & Criticism

The Memory Effect

The Remediation of Memory in Literature and Film

edited by Russell J.A. Kilbourn & Eleanor Ty

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2014
History & Criticism, Social History, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2014
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    Publish Date
    Sep 2013
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The Memory Effect is a collection of essays on the status of memory—individual and collective, cultural and transcultural—in contemporary literature, film, and other visual media. Contributors look at memory’s representation, adaptation, translation, and appropriation, as well as its mediation and remediation. Memory’s irreducibly constructed nature is explored, even as its status is reaffirmed as the basis of both individual and collective identity.

The book begins with an overview of the field, with an emphasis on the question of subjectivity. Under the section title Memory Studies: Theories, Changes, and Challenges, these chapters lay the theoretical groundwork for the volume. Section 2, Literature and the Power of Cultural Memory/Memorializing, focuses on the relation between literature and cultural memory. Section 3, Recuperating Lives: Memory and Life Writing, shifts the focus from literature to autobiography and life writing, especially those lives shaped by trauma and forgotten by history. Section 4, Cinematic Remediations: Memory and History, examines specific films in an effort to account for cinema’s intimate and mutually constitutive relationship with memory and history. The final section, Multi-Media Interventions: Television, Video, and Collective Memory, considers individual and collective memory in the context of contemporary visual texts, at the crossroads of popular and avant-garde cultures.

About the authors

Russell J. A. Kilbourn is an associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is the author of Cinema, Memory, Modernity: The Representation of Memory from the Art Film to Transnational Cinema (2010).

Eleanor Ty is a professor of English at Wilfrid Laurier University. She has published on contemporary ethnic texts, and on 18th-century British women writers. She is the author of Unfastened: Globality and Asian North American Narratives (2010) and co-editor, with Christl Verduyn, of Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography (WLU Press, 2008).

Russell J.A. Kilbourn's profile page


Eleanor Ty is a professor and chair of the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. She is the author of The Politics of the Visible in Asian North American Narratives and co-editor with Donald Goellnicht of Asian North American Identities beyond the Hyphen.

Christl Verduyn teaches Canadian Studies and English at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. She publishes on Canadian and Qu?b?cois women’s writing, multiculturalism and minority writing, and life writing, and was the recipient in 2006 of the Governor General’s International Award for Canadian Studies. She is the editor of Marian Engel’s Notebooks: Ah, mon cahier, coute ... (WLU Press, 1999) and Must Write: Edna Staebler’s Diaries (WLU Press, 2005).


Eleanor Ty's profile page

Excerpt: The Memory Effect: The Remediation of Memory in Literature and Film (edited by Russell J.A. Kilbourn & Eleanor Ty)

Excerpt from The Memory Effect: The Remediation of Memory in Literature and Film edited by Russell J. A. Kilbourn and Eleanor Ty

From the Introduction

This collection (1) came about in response to the following question: How do changing ideas of memory affect how we think about texts, whether literary, filmic, or in some other medium? By framing an approach to memory informed by post-structuralist theories of the subject, language, and representation, we assert that memory, like history, is understood to be a discursive construct. This position, which in the twenty-first century sounds outdated, remains in our view the most radical and therefore the most valuable in terms of the insight it allows into the ontology and epistemology of memory today, insofar as this is not an understanding of memory as discursive-textual construct in a second-order sense, as in classical or early modern conceptions of an “art of memory” distinct from memory as a “natural” faculty or capacity of the mind. Classical theorists such as Cicero saw memory as a rhetorical category, and artificial memory therefore as something to be learned through the mental construction of a memory palace inside one's head. This pre-modern model is predicated upon the two longest-standing metaphors of memory as storage place and as system of inscription (see, e. g. , Yates, Carruthers, Frow), by which relatively complex assemblages of information can be deposited, recollected, reordered, and reproduced at will. Centuries of cultural and technological —not to speak of cognitive and neurological—development have resulted in a world in which it is now possible to walk around with a USB key or “flash drive” in one's pocket or briefcase, containing as much information as the Library of Congress—enough data, in short, to consume several lifetimes of learning or of practical application. For most of us today this is what memory is, in a first-order sense, or rather in a sense that transcends any “natural”-technical binary: an external, prosthetic storage tool, operating on its own or as part of another machine (camera, laptop, cellphone, tablet, e-reader), entirely distinct from the “natural” human sensorium, the physically embodied mental “self,” yet already indispensible, a crucial component in what is emerging as a wholly new kind of cyber- or post-human interface, yielding never-before-possible subjectivities and modalities of identity. This, at least, is the utopian scenario; a more cynical view sees in this tendency the colonization of memory as an always already artificial technology, but where, in a symptomatically postmodern irony, the loss of the distinction between “natural” and technically enhanced memory is to be nostalgically mourned. We would not be the first to point out that for many people today the “natural” memory is employed primarily in the second-order task of storing and retrieving (or not) the knowledge of how to retrieve the mind-bogglingly vast quantities of information now available via various digital media platforms.

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