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The Fictional Art of Representing Individual Memory

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TheFictionalArt ofRepresenting IndividualMemory
A presentation in theArt of MemorySeriesDrs. Cunningham, Ross, and Workman of the English Department
Previous Presentations aboutMemory consolidation and transfer within communities (tribal, national, global) through rituals (Day of the Dead),ikons(crucifixes in American Southwest), stories of pilgrims & pilgrimages (to Canterbury, the Holy Lands), memorials (to Lithuanian Jews).
Our PresentationThe ways in which writers provide a sense of what it’s like to be a human being with a capacity for memory.The feeling of what happens (inside).
JonahLehrer’sProust Was a NeuroscientistCreative Artists (writers, painters, chefs) anticipate the discoveries made by neuroscientists in the lab and through sophisticated brain imaging technology.Neuroscientists confirm what artists have arrived at through observation and intuition.A bridge between the two cultures?
Lehrer’s subjectsProust…(the nature of memoryEscoffier….(the dimensions of taste)Sweet, sour, salty, bitter…andsavorinessCezanne…(the essence of vision)Stein…(the nature of language)Stravinsky…(the origin of music)
Freud’s “borrowing” of the Oedipus legend to explain male development
Year Two of the Art of Memory Series?The contributions of brain science to our understanding of memoryDehaene’sReading in the BrainLehrer’sHow We DecideBehavioral “Has the Internet Changed the Way We Think?”Memory Consolidation/ReconsolidationKlingberg’sThe Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory
David Lodge:Consciousness and the NovelOur curiosity about the brain’s nature and function will propel us toward scientific investigation, but we will never achieve a full scientific reckoning. Thus…Literature as our species’ extended documentation of dense human experience.
The novel is the most successful attempt at describing the experiences of human beings through space and time.Literature endeavors to get atqualia, that is, the specific nature of subjective experience.
More David Lodge: The Theory of MindOur ability to “read” the minds of others and infer what their inner life is like (a necessary social skill).The writer’s desire to depict the inner life…to render “on the surface” but also “in depth”
19thCentury predecessorsJane Austen (1775-1817)Henry James (1843-1916)The central consciousnessA generalization about 19thcentury fiction: the inner life of a character mediated by a controlling, limited-omniscient narrator.
Modernist WritersJames JoycePortrait of the Artist(1916)Virginia WoolfMrs. Dalloway(1925)Modern Fiction(1919)William FaulknerThe Sound and the Fury(1928)Development of “stream of consciousness” (the “quick of the mind”) ups the ante on the exploration and presentation of inner lifeMemory as a dimension of consciousness
Influences on these and other Modernists(in addition to literary forerunners…Austen, James, Proust)William James,The Principles of Psychology (1890)The “train” or “chain” or “stream” of consciousnessThoughtInstinctPre-thoughtReflexMemory
Influence on these and other Modernists:Freud’s ideas about the subconsciousRefutation of the unitary selfFaulkner’sCompsonBrothers: id, ego, superegoThe 80 year history of photography and the nascent narrative movieBirth of a Nation(1915);The Jazz Singer(1927)
Influences on these and other Modernists:The cycles of literature: the Victorian novel is worn out. Rejection of the forms and values of Victorian fiction. Pound: “Make it New”Advocacy of critics like Woolf: “only thoughts and feelings, no cups and tables”…[“On or about December 1910 human nature changed.” 1923]
The Paradigm of the Presentation, 1What does the selected novel say about the nature and function of memory, aboutits triggers,our control over it (memoirevoluntaire+ memoireinvoluntaire, Henri Bergson)duration (laduree…subjective time)frequency, andits power to liberate or imprison
The Paradigm of the Presentation, 2How does the writer use language, literary devices, type face, etc. to represent consciousness (inner life) in general and the movements in and out of memory in particular? What are the cues on the page?How to convey inarticulate and, at times, simultaneous thought and feeling in a linear art form?
Memory and Consciousness
Rare in early works – Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManPrevalent in UlyssesThe major mode in Finnegan’s Wake
“Heron” incident – Heron Based on Albrecht Connolly, a rival student, and brother Vincent.Incident taken straight from life –as “Stannie” attested later to RichardEllmann.Illustrates Joyce’s alienation from “church,” “family” and “state” at an early ageEarly/representative act of defiance and self-definition
Heron et al urge Stephen to “take off” the English headmaster Mr. Tate.Headmaster was GeorgeStanislousDempseyStephen recalls incident where peers and headmaster betrayed him – “Admit!”Mr.Tateaccuses Stephen of heresyHeron et al accost Stephen for literary taste/heresy in their jealousy.
Stephenputs himself beyond the reach of his country/countrymen.Reader participates by feeling Stephen’s anger at persecution.Tension resolved when Stephen transcends his peers concerns.“Thesevoices had come to behollowsoundingin his ears.”
Recalls Ulysses,Tristram, Faust and Milton’s Satan – puts truth of own original experience before all dogmas and allegiances.“I will not serve that which I do not believe – whether it is my home, fatherland or church.”“I will express myself as freely and wholly as I can in life and art, using only silence, exile and cunning for defense.”“Alone?” “Yes.” “Not even one friend?” “Yes.”
Agreed withFreud – at first.Later used Carl Jung. Jung more universal.Disavowed Freud’s influence – citedEdouardDujardin’snovels as models and read them at age 20 in 1902.Dujardinwrote monologues.Joyce pioneered the balance of inner monologue and outer social reality.
William Faulkner’sThe Sound and the FuryThe past is never dead. It is not even past.Gavin Stevens – Requiem for a Nun
Pickett's ChargeFor every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that positionand those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper andArmsteadand Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to thinkThis time. Maybe this timewith all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago....(Intruder in the Dust)
The Weight of Southern History…..
The Sound and the Fury:A Tale of theCompsonFamilyQuentin III (father) and Caroline (mother)Quentin IV (Part II, June 6, 1910)Caddy…….Jason (Part III, April 6, 1928, Holy Saturday)Benjy(Maury) (Part I, April 7, 1928, Good Friday)Servant WomanDilsey(Part IV, April 8, 1928, Easter Sunday)
Benjyand his memoriesThe retarded son on his birthday“hear” and “smell” used 100 timesCaddie 300 timesTriggers:Auditory (caddie/Caddy),Olfactory, (flower fragrance, Caddy’s Perfume)Visual (the gate in the fence/the mirror spot)Tactile (Caddy’s slipper)The persistence and power of the past
QuentinCompson(suicide 1910)Common words: shadow, remember, clock, timeCaddie mentioned 100 timesFather: “…clocks slay time…time is dead when it is being clicked of by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life…”
Quentin’s memoryFluid moment between past and presentFluid movement between past episodesInvented memory: “I have committed incest”The superimposition of past on presentThe palimpsest of events, past and present….Dalton Ames (Caddie’s suitor in April 1910) and Gerald Bland (Quentin’s classmate on June 6 of 1910)
Sartre on FaulknerHis interior monologues are like an airplane trip full ofairpockets….The present is nameless, fleeting, and helpless before the past. (Quentin III: Man is the sum of his misfortunes)The past is not chronological but a set of emotional constellations.
Some recent “modernist” novels that employ stream of consciousness (and that I like):IanMcEwan’sSaturday(2005)Nicholson Baker’sThe Mezzanine(1988)





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The Fictional Art of Representing Individual Memory