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Remembering and Forgetting

Remembering and Forgetting:
Research Colloquium at the University of Bath

On Tuesday, 27 February, a one-day Colloquium on “Remembering and Forgetting” was organised on behalf of the Department of European Studies and Modern Languages’s research cluster ‘Memory, History, Identity’ by Dr Axel Goodbody.

The ‘Memory, History, Identity’ group is one of six Research Clusters which emerged in the Department following the restructuring of our research activities in 2006. Among our first activities last Autumn was the invitation of 3 speakers from other UK universities: Dr Andrea Mammone (Leeds), Dr Mari Paz Balibrea (Birkbeck), and Dr Anke Kramer (Newcastle) spoke about their work in memory studies in Italian, Spanish and German politics and culture respectively. Two members of the Department, Professor Anna Bull and Dr Axel Goodbody, also gave papers.

This Colloquium, which was our first formal event, was arranged as an opportunity for members of the Department to present an aspect of their current work, to listen to each other, and to invite experts to present papers and participate in a discussion about future work in memory research.

The colloquium programme included five papers by members of the Department of European Studies and Modern Languages at Bath, on subjects ranging from trauma and memory in German autobiographical writing (David Clarke), to the deliberate forgetting of the French exodus of 1940 by French historians (Hannah Diamond), the films of Agnes Varda (Peter Wagstaff), wine drinking and national identity in France (Marion Demossier), and the importance of the losing one’s memory in teenage drinking practices in the UK (Christine Griffin).

The centrepiece of the Colloquium was a public lecture by Professor Aleida Assmann on ‘Ghosts of the Past in Literature and Photography’.

Professor AssmannProfessor Assmann, who is Professor of English and Literary Theory at the University of Konstanz, is a leading scholar in the field of Memory Studies. Her name is associated in particular with the concept of Cultural Memory, which she has developed together with her husband, the Egyptologist and cultural theorist Jan Assmann, over the last twenty years. Aleida Assmann’s publications include The Legitimacy of Fiction (1980), Working on National Memory (1993), and Spheres of Memory: Forms and Transitions in Cultural Memory, which came out in a third edition in 2003. In 2006 she published two new books, an Introduction to Cultural Studies which was structured around the media of culture, and an overview of two decades of work in memory studies, The Long Shadow of the Past: Cultures of Memory and the Politics of History. Professor Assmann spoke about the connection between ghosts and memory. She showed how, as carriers of a repressed and traumatic past, ghosts are relevant to memory in literary texts on family trauma, new strategies in psychotherapy, and artistic installations.
The colloquium opened with a paper by Dr Susannah Radstone, who is a leading figure in British memory studies.

Dr Susannah Radstone

Dr Radstone lectures in Film and Cultural Studies in the School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London, and is convenor of the Cultural Memory Seminars organised jointly by the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies (University of London), the Raphael Samuel History Centre, and the University of East London. Her publications include Memory and Methodology (2000), and two volumes published in 2003, Regimes of Memory and Contested Pasts. The politics of Memory. A new monograph On Memory and Confession: The Sexual Politics of Time will be published by Routledge in 2007. Her paper, ‘Nachträglichkeit, History and Place’, challenged the usual focus of memory studies on texts reflecting trauma, and argued for a more sophisticated consideration of memory and the literary-historical imagination.

The event closed with a round table discussion on the future of memory studies.