Figures of Memory
From the Muses to Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetics
Zsolt Komáromy's Figures of Memory effects a rapprochement between memory studies and eighteenth-century British aesthetics. It argues that the assessment of memory in the history of aesthetics and criticism has been determined by the ideological import of the creative imagination, based on the supposed dichotomy of reproductive and productive mental powers. The rich notion of memory, however, unsettles this dichotomy, and Komáromy argues that the literary relevance of memory is explained precisely by its resistance to the reproductive-productive opposition. He explores these issues through various "figures" representing senses of memory, such as the Muses, or through metaphors for memory in philosophical and critical discourse. Tracing figures of memory from the Muses through Plato and Descartes to works by Pope, Addison, Gerard, and Kames, Komáromy reveals an undercurrent of thought in eighteenth-century aesthetics that questions memory's nominal opposition to the imagination, and that exploits memory's simultaneously reproductive and constructive nature in the emerging theory of the imagination. By arguing that the tradition of memory's literary relevance is not marginalized but in fact perpetuated in eighteenth-century British critical thought, Figures of Memory provides a powerful new perspective on the history of memory in aesthetics and criticism.
About the author:
Zsolt Komáromy is Assistant Professor in English Studies at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.