English 190

Research Seminar: Making Memories


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Fall 2017 Yoon, Irene
TTh 5-6:30 263 Dwinelle

Book List

Atwood, Margaret: The Blind Assassin (2000); Barnes, Julian: The Sense of an Ending (2011); Cole, Teju: Open City (2011); Eskin, Blake: The Making and Unmaking of Binjamin Wilkomirski (2003); Gondry, Michel, and Kaufman, Charlie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004); Ishiguro, Kazuo: Pale View of Hills (1982); McCarthy, Tom: Remainder (2005); McEwan, Ian: Atonement (2001); Murdoch, Iris: Jackson's Dilemma (1995); Sebald, W.G.: Austerlitz (2001)

Other Readings and Media

A course reader with select critical readings:  Paul Ricoeur, "Narrative Time" (1985); Benedict Carey, "A Study of Memory Looks at Fact and Fiction," New York Times (2/3/2007); Michael Hopkin, "Iris Murdoch's last book reveals early Alzheimer's," Nature (12/1/2004); P. Garrard, et al, "The effects of very early Alzheimer's disease on the characteristics of writing by a renowned author," Brain (2005): 250-60; (selections) Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending (1967); (selections) Alison Winter, Memory: Fragments of a Modern History (2012); (selections) Marianne Hirsch, The Generation of Postmemory (2012).

Description

This seminar examines a literary turn toward narratives of counterfeit confessional memory. It asks what is at stake in narratiing and even confessing a past that didn't happen—and what that even means in the context of a fictional text. These works invite us to consider both conscious and unconscious counterfeiters, those who only belatedly—or never—realize that their memories were imagined all along. These questions find echoes in recent heated debates over the nature of "recovered memories"; the ethics of certain therapeutic and pharmaceutical memory treatments for PTSD; and the proliferation of social media platforms for curating experience with varying degrees of regulation and accountability. Familiar debates over the status of voluntary and involuntary memory in both life and literature take on new valences as the unreliability of a narrator becomes as much a function of his or her own capacity to remember as the desire to present a particular version of a story. The course moves between examinations of narrative and memory construction at the levels of narrators, authors, and narrator-authors, as we consider a wide range of contemporary novels, secondary criticism, and relevant literary controversies.

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