Cultural Memory


How do verbal and visual fictions exist over time?  How and why do they become timely or untimely?  What is the function of fictions in constructing the past, commemorating its actors, revising memories – and for whom ? Individuals, symbolic groups, cultures?
This investigation of the lives and times of fiction engages seminar members in several major debates in cultural, literary, and historical studies today : Jacques Rancière on ’anachrony’; Reinhart Koselleck on historical time; Andreas Huyssen on memory and amnesia, Maurice Halbwachs & Jacques LeGoff on History and Memory; François Hartog on presentism; Richard Rinehart on collections and new media.
We’ll consider two public media for instituting memory : the library and the museum.  On-site work at the Rubenstein will situate our study of myths of the library as world memory : Paris  & Timbuktu.  At the Nasher, an experimental installation on the Arts of Migration around Europe will give us a test case of the museum as treasure house of objects and mass medium. 

Fiction in French will be our major field for investigation. We’ll debate various arguments about the timeliness of works by examining them in pairs across genres, media and modern-pre-modern-contemporary periods.  Pairs include: troubadour song, Villon with the poetry of Louis Aragon; the mystery play with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s first theater and thinking on freedom; the utopias of Christine de Pizan with Communist feminist Edith Thomas; Joan of Arc with filmmaker Dreyer, franco-arabic chronicle with Rachid Boudjedra and Honorat Bovet.

The third part of the seminar will be run as a workshop with students developing their own research projects.  The course is open to all those interested in pursuing the question of cultural memory, including traditions other than French and Francophone.  The seminar will be given in English; those enrolled in French will do reading and writing in French.

Course flyer
Crosslisting Numbers

HISTORY 557, LIT 557

Curriculum Codes