Volume 42 Number 2

Harold Schweizer (Ed.)

History and Memory: Suffering and Art

1998
135 pages
$65.00
ISBN 0838754171
Bucknell Review

Referring to poets and writers ranging from Sophocles to Paul Celan, from Wordsworth to Thomas Bernhard, and from Proust to Benjamin Fondane, the authors of this collection of essays ponder the relationship between history and suffering and ask what forms of narrative could articulate or mediate such a relationship. The title, History and Memory: Suffering and Art, implies a tragic collusion between history and suffering, but also a redemptive resolution of history and suffering through memory and art. If we want to resist such a redemptive notion of art as a form of avoidance of suffering and of history, we must ask: is not the concept of history, since it is a concept, already redemptive? Is not history itself always already resolved through the order of its temporality and the structure of its narratives? The question, then, is not, how can we avoid thinking of art as cure of history, but rather how can we avoid thinking of history as a redemption of suffering? How can we understand history as the history of suffering? Or, how can we understand history as the irredeemable history it is? Such questions are relevant as we attempt to respond to such events as the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, or the war in Bosnia. Perhaps the history of such events can only become a history of suffering when these events are understood without the consolations implied by causality and continuum. A history thus conceived would not be the narrative of a political or communal destiny but the collective fate of individuals exiled from the comprehensive patterns of their lives, subject to a random sequence of accidents. Such a history would demand a radical transformation of understanding itself, a "Copernican shift," as Walter Benjamin demanded, or perhaps a transformation of the very structure of those forms and meanings by which we live our lives. The authors of the nine essays collected in this issue of Bucknell Review thus refer to historiographers of a poetic kind, and to genres as different as philosophy and photography, lyrical poetry and political satire, in order to propose a revisionist historiography that would not belie the discontinuous history of those who suffer.

Contributors: M. A. R. Habib, Anna Foca, Angela Cozea, Armelle Chitrit, Bruce Lawder, James R. Watson, Erik Vogt, Harold Schweizer, and Catherine Mavrikakis.

About the editor:

Harold Schweizer is John P. Crozer Professor of English Literature at Bucknell University. His most recent book is On Waiting (2008).

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