603-103-MQ, Memory and the Self
“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” – Aldous Huxley When we are children, we are taught to remember what our names are and where we live. Later, we remember to bring our keys with us when we leave the house, how to ride our bicycles without falling down, and how to make toast without burning it. We also remember stories and experiences and feelings and desires. Memories can comfort us or haunt us; they can clarify past events or confuse them, creating new fictions out of previously accepted truths. Albert Einstein once described memory as “deceptive” because it is less reliable as truth than it seems, written anew in every moment that it is recalled, influenced by the present even as it stems from the past. Through an analysis of literary texts from a range of genres, this course will examine the theme of memory as it is found in literature, and as it influences the writing of literature. Ideas covered may include: the links between memory, history and identity—both personal and cultural; the relationship between memory and the senses; the ways in which memories are contained in, and unlocked by, objects and artifacts; issues surrounding traumatic memory and memory loss; and the challenges and importance of forgetting in a digital age.