Still Points, Turning Worlds: Memorial Dynamics and the Materiality of Memory

Bryant, Jennifer. Still Points, Turning Worlds: Memorial Dynamics and the Materiality of Memory. 2011. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

Adviser: Herbert Blau

Still Points, Turning Worlds begins by exploring how recent developments in neurology and new understandings of the physiology of memory both affect and illuminate the processes of cultural and social memories. I argue that memory is becoming increasingly material, not simply triggered by the monuments and mementos that populate societies, but indivisible from them. The particular focus of Still Points, Turning Worlds, then, is on the tension between stability and fluidity inherent to objects of memory, and the way in which this equivocation is essential to understanding the social significance of material memory. Its first chapter, "Textual Memory," uses number of examples that range from First World War Field Service Post Cards to Medieval Flemish choir tapestries, along with contemporary textual theory, to examine how a text's physicality can structure and limit the memories it embodies. Chapter One concludes with a case study of various editions of Wilfred Owen's war poetry, where I argue that controversial decisions made by Owen's editors after the poet's death have succeeded in helping to both shape and confirm an international consensus of memory regarding the "Great War." The second chapter, "Terrestrial Memory," examines the role of landscape as memory in historical examples—like that of Ypres, Belgium throughout World War One—and in examples from literature that include Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Rebecca West's The Return of the Soldier, and William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! . This chapter also includes a case study of Chief Seattle, to examine how his memory is embodied in a complex conglomeration of text and landscape. Chapter Three, "Cinematic Memory," looks at issues of traumatic memory in the "haptic," texture-obsessed cinema of Alain Resnais. Finally, the fourth chapter, "Memory in Ruins," examines how controlled destruction in Artists' Books like Tony White's My Story, My Telling, along with ruin photography and preserved ruins like the Nazi-destroyed village of Oradour-sur-Glane, make an argument for ruin, decay, and forgetting as essential components of the dynamics of memory.

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