María Jesús Martinez-Alfaro
Martínez-Alfaro, María Jesús and Silvia Pellicer-Ortín, eds. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 294pp.
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The 1990s brought with them a “memory boom” that has made of memory a central concern in contemporary culture and politics at a global scale. Many factors have contributed to this boom and the effect of their intersection has been multiplicative, rather than additive. They have also created sites of clash, controversy, and contradiction. It is these friction areas that the present volume explores by focusing on contemporary narratives in English from 1990 to the present. The essays that make up the collection delve into both the treatment of memory in literature and the view of literature as a medium of memory, paying special attention to major controversies attending the representation and (re)construction of individual, cultural and collective memories in literary narratives in English published during the last few decades.
Focusing on texts written by authors from diverse backgrounds —Great Britain, South-Korea, the USA, Cuba, Australia, Burma, as well as Native-American Indian and African-American writers— this book attempts to explore the multifarious representational strategies used by contemporary writers so as to textualise memory and its friction areas through literary practices. The contributors to the collection analyse a good range of memory frictions —in connection with melancholic mourning, immigration, diaspora, genocide, perpetration and victimhood, dialogic witnessing, memorialisation practices, inherited traumatic memories, murder, sexual abuse, prostitution, etc.— by making use of various disciplines —such as psychoanalysis, ethics, politics, space theories, postcolonial studies, narratology, feminism and gender studies, critical studies in food and culture— resulting in a volume that is genuinely contemporary and committed to cross-cultural ethical engagement.
The introductory chapter by the editors —“Memory Frictions: Conflict-Negotiation-Politics”— is followed by twelve chapters grouped into four sections plus a “Conclusion”:
- Part I: Experimentation and Genre: Formal Memory Frictions
- Part II: Collective Tensions and the Politics of Remembrance
- Part III: The Haunting Presence of the Holocaust: Multidirectional, Transgenerational and Memorial Struggles
- Part IV: Mapping Memories, Spatial F(r)ictions and Troubled Identities
- Finally, in the closing chapter, Robert Eaglestone, focuses on how the need to reassess the relationship between the discourse of memory and literature is instantiated in different ways by the preceding essays, by engaging with: the postcolonial turn in memory studies; the relationship between memory and politics; the interaction between memory and trauma; and between memory and ethics.
“Probing the tensions and sticking points in the contemporary field of memory studies, this volume opens up the need for complex, trans-cultural and trans-historical approaches to reading memory. Mapping sites of friction, but also positioning conflict and contestation as potentially generative forces, this collection is a welcome and timely addition to the field.” (Anne Whitehead, Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Newcastle University UK)
“This excellent volume reassesses the notion of traumatic memory, centring on such varied contexts as Cuba, South Korea and Burma, as well as the legacy of slavery in the USA and the Holocaust. In doing so, it brings out the disjunctions, rather than the consonances, between different memories of this kind. In its focus on frictions and controversies in this way, the collection makes a very innovative and distinctive contribution to memory and trauma studies.” (Sue Vice, Professor of English Literature, University of Sheffield, UK)