603-103-MQ, Minding the Past: Representations of Memory and History in Literature
This course will look at literary texts and films that treat memory and history— be it personal, familial, or collective history-- as important themes. Many of the works we will study can be considered historical narratives— narratives which attempt to represent a particular historical event (in some cases, well known historical events like the slave trade or the Holocaust). Traditionally, history is written by the dominant group—those who won the war or won the election, but official accounts of history can be biased, and can silence the experiences of some; as such, we will explore the idea of rewriting history in literature. Literature involves the telling of stories, and stories don’t purport to be official records, but instead more personal, intimate accounts of what happened; through this lens, perhaps, we can reach a better understanding of the past. We will also look into the idiosyncrasies of personal memory—the ways in which it can be charged with emotion, fragmentary, interwoven with the memories of others, at times unreliable, and yet crucial to our identity and understanding of our current selves.