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Introduction: The Sources of Memory

Introduction: The Sources of Memory

(p.1) Introduction: The Sources of Memory
Collective Memory and the Historical Past
Jeffrey Andrew Barash
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines historical variations in the interpretation of memory among the predominant traditions that have defined it since Greek antiquity. According to its argument, variations in the predominant philosophical approaches to memory in given historical periods convey changes in fundamental convictions concerning the sense of human existence and of human interaction in the socio-political sphere. The analysis of major sources of philosophical interpretation of memory leads to an attempt to comprehend the ways in which memory, beyond this traditional framework, is made a topic of reflection in the post-Hegelian world. In this context it is widely understood to be the matrix of collective cohesion in the development of history as a universal process. In the wake of World War I, radical discontinuity and transformations in the conditions of mass social existence brought clearly to the fore not only the limits of traditional presuppositions concerning memory, but above all of previous theoretical approaches to memory as the source of historical cohesion. In this context, the discourse of "collective memory" was inspired by unprecedented insight into the finite scope of group recollection which, in light of mutations in group perspective, led to its distinction from historical understanding of the remote past.

Keywords:   historism, organic memory, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Johann Gustav Droysen, Maurice Halbwachs, Ernest Renan, Walter Benjamin

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