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English 781.301 Spring 2011
Histories of Forgetting Professor Max Cavitch
Thursdays 3:00-6:00 office hours: by appointment
Fisher-Bennett Hall 140 FBH 316

From the late 17th century, disturbances and disruptions of memory loom ever larger in the western social imaginary.  From Locke to Freud, individual and collective relations to the past—the very identity and character of persons and institutions—seem increasingly to depend on what has been lost or excluded from memory.  In America, forgetting has frequently seemed to many observers like a kind of self-inflicted destiny—at once an inevitable condition and an active pursuit.  This advanced seminar on early American literature and culture remembers, or pieces together, some histories of what Gore Vidal has called the “United States of Amnesia.”  The first three meetings will be devoted to historical and conceptual orientation.  Subsequent meetings will home in on the emergence of Lockean epistemology and the plight of modern memory: How much history do you need under liberal rationalism? How much of the past must you possess in order to govern, sympathize, write, love, mourn, fashion an identity, or project a future? Is memory the foundation of the social? Is it inimical to happiness? Who and what must you exclude in order to realize a particular vision of justice or sovereignty or friendship? What’s the cost of obtaining the history you most desire, or of ridding your memory of its stupefying encumbrances?  We’ll consider the fate of such questions through readings of early American texts, beginning with Locke’s contemporary, Mary Rowlandson, and concluding with Freud’s contemporary, Ida B. Wells.

The seminar stipulates a dialectical relation between remembering and forgetting.  That is, we will take as our starting point the assumption that remembering and forgetting are contradictory forms of experience that may be shaped, in their opposition, into meaningful if temporary structures of understanding.  To speak of remembering is already to speak of forgetting.  So why is this seminar not called “Histories of Remembering”?  Because our tendency is to conceive of forgetting primarily as a disturbance or pathology of memory or as the background of remembering (as in past to present, unconscious to conscious, innocence to experience, barbarism to civilization, etc.).  Here, we will see what happens when forgetting is moved to the fore.  This is, then, in every sense a topical course, and its topoi include various sites and texts of English-speaking North America before, during, and after the “founding” of the U.S.  Its topoi also include major theological, philosophical, political, psychological, and literary reflections on forgetting in western thought, from antiquity to the present.  The aim?  Not to achieve a reconciliation (synthesis) of remembering and forgetting, but rather to interpret and evaluate the “temporary structures of understanding” (a.k.a. “literature”) that illuminate the stakes of their opposition.

Full participation in all seminar meetings; a commonplace book; one in-class presentation with an accompanying annotated bibliography; one article-length essay (25-35 pages).

Required texts (available at the Penn Book Center, 34th & Sansom)
· Andrews et al., ed., Journeys in New Worlds (Wisconsin)
· Brown, Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (Penguin)
· Franklin, Autobiography (Yale)
· Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Norton)
· Nietzsche, Unfashionable Observations (Stanford)
· Plato, Phaedrus (Hackett)
· Walker, ed., American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (Rutgers)
· Wells, Southern Horrors and Other Writings (Bedford)
· Whitman, Poetry and Prose (Library of America)

Schedule of meetings
Readings marked with this symbol § are available at my pdf library; you are responsible for printing them out and bringing them to class.
A list of recommended supplemental readings follows the schedule of meetings.

1/13 Introduction: What Did You Know, and When Did You Know It?

1/20 class cancelled

1/27 Verba Volent, Scripta Manet

It may be thought that the Memory of these things may be lost with us, who have not like you the Art of preserving it, by committing all Transactions to writing.
—Seneca chief Kanickhungo, speaking at a Pennsylvania Provincial Council Meeting, 2 October 1736

· Deuteronomy (7th c. BCE?), esp. chs. 4-30 §
· Plato, Phaedrus (c. 360 BCE)
· Aristotle, “De memoria et reminiscentia” (c. 330 BCE) §
· Pliny the Elder, from Historia naturalis (77 CE) §
· Quintilian, Institutio oratoria book 11, chapter 2 (c. 92-96 CE) §
· John Willis, from Mnemonica (1618) §
· James Merrell, “Conversations,” from Into the American Woods (1999) §
· Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Picture-Writing,” from The Song of Hiawatha (1855) §

2/3 The Sinking of Memory

I can remember much forgetfulness.
—Hart Crane

· Augustine, Confessions, book X (397-398 CE) §
· Michel de Montaigne, “Of Lyers” (1603; “Des monteurs,” 1580) §
· John Locke, from An Essay on Human Understanding (1690) §
· Voltaire, “Memory’s Adventure” (“Aventure de la mémoire,” 1773) §
· Henry David Thoreau, “Life Without Principle” (1863) §
· Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Utility and Liability of History for Life (Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben, 1874)
· Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, 1901)

2/10 The Use and Abuse of Forgetting for Colonial Life

The first total confrontation between the antique and the modern was perhaps that between the Indians of the Americas and the Europeans.
—Le Goff, History and Memory

· Mary Rowlandson, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, including “Preface to the Reader” by Increase Mather (1682)
· Mitchell Robert Breitwieser, “The Society of the Example,” from American Puritanism and the Defense of Mourning (1990) §
· La Capra, “Holocaust Testimonies,” from Writing History, Writing Trauma (2001) §

remember:  Deuteronomy and the covenant of remembrance; Nietzsche on Hegel

2/17 American Anamnesiad: Late Puritanism and Modern Historiography

How comes it that history never has to wait for facts, but for a man to write it? The ages may go on forgetting the facts never so long, he can remember two for every one forgotten. The musty records of history, like the catacombs, contain the perishable remains, but only in the breast of genius are embalmed the souls of heroes.
—Henry David Thoreau, “Thomas Carlyle and His Works”

· Cotton Mather, from Magnalia Christi Americana (1702): Attestation; dedicatory poems; General Introduction; book I, chs. 1-4; book II, ch. 4 (“Nehemias Americanus”) §
· Alexis de Tocqueville, from Democracy in America (1835-40): vol. I, ch. 2, with Tocqueville’s note on documents §

remember:  Deuteronomy and the covenant of remembrance

2/24 Led to Forget; or, a Liberal Education

Knowing by heart is no knowledge.
—Montaigne, “On the Education of Children”

· John Locke, from Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) §
· Franklin, Autobiography (1771-90)

remember:  Aristotle and Quintilian on learning, memory, and rhetoric; also Augustine and his Confessions, and Locke on memory in his Essay

3/3 Dissociative States of America

Ourself behind ourself, concealed -
Should startle most -
—Dickinson, F 407

· Declaration of Independence (1776) §
· Perry Miller, from Errand Into the Wilderness (1956) §
· Sacvan Bercovitch, from The Puritan Origins of the American Self (1975) §
· Benedict Anderson, “Memory and Forgetting,” from Imagined Communities (1991) §
· Amy Kaplan, “Left Alone With America”(1993) §
· Philip Bromberg, from Standing in the Spaces (2001) §
· Peter Coviello, “Agonizing Affection” (2002) §

remember:  Rowlandson, Mather, Locke on Socrates asleep and Socrates awake

3/10 no meeting—Spring Break

3/17 Wounds of Memory

What you fear most has already happened.
—Annie Rogers, A Shining Affliction

· Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (1799)
· Freud, “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche,” 1919) §

remember:  La Capra on trauma

3/24 Identificatory Amnesia

Like Ahab, he seeks the other.  He travels towards it in an effort to bring it back to him, or him to it.  He does not identify it in order to expel it, but rather to continue the extractive process.
—Christopher Bollas, The Shadow of the Object

· William Cullen Bryant, selected poems §
· Renato Rosaldo, “Imperialist Nostalgia,” from Culture and Truth (1989) §
· Philip J. Deloria, from Playing Indian (1998) §
· Alan Trachtenberg, from Shades of Hiawatha (2004) §

remember: Longfellow’s “Picture-Writing”

3/31 The House of Forgetting; or, The Archive

I have long grown used to being dead.
—Wilhelm Jensen, as quoted by Freud, as quoted by Derrida, in Prenowitz's translation of Mal d'Archive

· selected poems from Cheryl Walker, ed., American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (1992)
· Janet Gray, Introduction, from She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (1997) §
· Paula Bernat Bennett, Introduction, from Nineteenth-Century American Women Poets (1998) §
· Virginia Jackson, “Beforehand,” from Dickinson's Misery (2005) §

remember: Deuteronomy 10 and the Ark of the Covenant; also, Nietzsche on antiquarianism

4/7 Forgetting Yourself

All his privacy leaking out in a sort of dribble, oozing into the universe.
—D. H. Lawrence, “Whitman”

· Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass (1855-1891/92)
· Michael Warner, “The Ethics of Sexual Shame,” from The Trouble With Normal (1999) §
· Max Cavitch, “Audience Terminable and Interminable” (2005) §

remember:  Nietzsche on the herd

4/14 Unforgotten

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop...
—Lewis Allan (Abel Meeropol), “Strange Fruit”

· Ida B. Wells, A Red Record (1895)
· selected photographs from Without Sanctuary (2000) §
· W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of the Passing of the First-Born,” from The Souls of Black Folk (1903) §
· David W. Blight, “Reconstruction and Reconciliation” and “Epilogue,” from Race and Reunion (2001) §

4/21 Unforgiven

And showed us what evil is: not as we thought
Deeds that must be punished, but our lack of faith,
Our dishonest mood of denial,
The concupiscence of the oppressor.
—W. H. Auden, “In Memory of Sigmund Freud”

· Theodor Adorno, “The Meaning of Working Through the Past” (1998; “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit?” 1959) §
· Vladimir Jankélévitch, “Temporal Decay,” from Forgiveness (2005; Le Pardon, 1967) §
· Nicole Loraux, “Of Amnesty and Its Opposite,” from Mothers in Mourning (1998; Les mères en deuil, 1990) §
· Roy L. Brooks, from Atonement and Forgiveness (2004) §
· Paul Ricoeur, "Difficult Forgiveness" (2004; "La pardon difficile," 2000) §

4/28 final papers due

Recommended off-syllabus reading
Theodor Adorno, “Valéry Proust Museum” (1967; 1953)
Marc Augé, Oblivion (2004; Les formes de l'oubli, 1998)
Frederic C. Bartlett, Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology (1932)
Charles Baxter, ed., The Business of Memory: The Art of Remembering in an Age of Forgetting (1999)
Ali Behdad, A Forgetful Nation: On Immigration and Cultural Identity in the United States (2005)
Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (1991; Matière et mémoire, 1896)
John Bodnar, Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (1992)
Sissela Bok, Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation (1983)
M. Christine Boyer, The City of Collective Memory (1994)
Peter Burke, “History as Social Memory,” Varieties of Cultural History (1997)
Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (1990)
---, The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200 (1998)
Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (1996)
Edward Casey, Remembering: A Phenomenological Study (1987)
Paul Connerton, How Modernity Forgets (2009)
---, How Societies Remember (1989)
Nicholas Dames, Amnesiac Selves: Nostalgia, Forgetting, and British Fiction, 1810-1870 (2001)
Paul de Man, “Literary History and Literary Modernity,” Blindness and Insight (1983)
Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (1995; Mal d'Archive: une impression freudienne, 1995)
---, Dissemination (1981; La Dissémination, 1972)
---, Writing and Difference (1978; L'écriture et la différence, 1967)
Mircea Eliade, “Mythologies of Memory and Forgetting,” Myth and Reality (1963; Aspects du mythe, 1963)
Umberto Eco, “An Ars Oblivionalis? Forget It,” PMLA 103 (1988): 254-61
Johannes Fabian, Memory against Culture: Arguments and Reminders (2007)
Harriet I. Flower, The Art of Forgetting: Disgrace and Oblivion in Roman Political Culture (2006)
John Gillis, ed., Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity (1994)
David Gross, Lost Time: On Remembering and Forgetting in Late Modern Culture (2000)
Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory (1992; Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire, 1941; La topographie légendaire des évangiles en terre sainte: Etude de mémoire collective, 1952)
Daniel Heller-Roazen, Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language (2005)
Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (2003)
Georg Iggers, Historiography in the Twentieth Century (1997)
Christopher Ivic and Grant Williams, eds., Forgetting in Early Modern English Literature and Culture: Lethe’s Legacies (2004)
Virginia Jackson, “Longfellow's Tradition; or, Picture-Writing a Nation,” Modern Language Quarterly 59.4 (1998): 471-96
Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (1981)
Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory (2001)
Norman M. Klein, The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory (1998; rev. ed. 2008)
Dominick LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma (2001)
Jacques Le Goff, History and Memory (1996; Histoire et mémoire, 1988)
Ruth Leys, Trauma: A Genealogy (2000)
Nicole Loraux, The Divided City: On Memory and Forgetting in Ancient Athens (2002; La cité divisée, 1997)
David Lowenthal, “Memory and Oblivion,” Museum Management and Curatorship 12 (1993): 171-82
---, The Past Is a Foreign Country (1985)
A. R. Luria, The Man With a Shattered World (1972; Poteriannyi i vozvrashchennyi mir)
---, The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book About a Vast Memory (1968; Malen´kaia knizhka o bol´shoĭ pamiati)
Jean-Francois Lyotard, Heidegger and “the jews” (1990; Heidegger et “les juifs”, 1988)
Avishai Margalit, The Ethics of Memory (2002)
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age (2009)
Richard J. McNally, Remembering Trauma (2003)
Peter Nabakov, A Forest of Time: American Indian Ways of History (2002)
Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger, ed., Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance (2008)
James H. Reid, Narration and Description in the French Realist Novel: The Temporality of Lying and Forgetting (1993)
Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting (2004; Mémoire, l'histoire, l'oubli, 2000)
Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (1996)
Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory, 2 vols. (1994)
Daniel L. Schacter, Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past (1996)
Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr., Memory and Forgetting in English Renaissance Drama: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Webster (2005)
Harald Weinrich, Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting (2004; Lethe: Kunst und Kritik des Vergessens, 1997)
Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory (1966)
Yosef Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (1982; 1989)
Eviatar Zerubavel, Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past (2003)