Cultural memory and the Role of Literature
Контрапункт: Книга статей памяти Г.А. Белой. М.: РГГУ, 2005,
статье Ренаты Лахманн «Культурная память и роль литературы»
my presentation I intend to discuss the mnemonic construction of the world, that
is, the ways by which human beings attempt to recapture the past. I shall
describe several paradigms incorporating different methods and techniques for
dealing with the past as they originated or developed in mythological traditions
and various scholarly disciplines. Some are attempts at the conceptual mastery
of the world, some tend to be pragmatic techniques for remembering. The
paradigms may be subsumed under different headings: the art of memory, the
encyclopedic representation of knowledge, and the narrative reproduction of the
past. I shall call these mnemonic paradigms «the mnemotechnical», «the
encyclopedic» and «the diegetic». I should add that I do not intend to discuss
the philosophical, psychological, and sociological theories of memory, although
I shall take up some of the key concepts accumulated in the history of these
disciplines but only to the extent that they shed light on the mnemonic
construction of the world.
mnemotechnical paradigm has a legendary source. The story of its invention by
the Greek poet Simonides Melicus, passed down by Cicero' and Quintilian,
conceals an ancient myth narrating the development of the art of memory, at the
threshold between an ancient epoch of ancestor cults from a later time when the
deceased were mourned but not worshipped. The fundamental concepts of the art,
place (locus), and image, (imago), may be derived from the old cults. But the
object of the disguised legend, mnemotechnics, has been handed down only in its
postmythical form: as a prescription for acts of recollection, and on the other
hand, as a tool for both the structuring and the presentation, open or encoded,
of knowledge. (Both aspects are central in Frances Yates's seminal history of
the art of memory 1).
of memory is τεχνη of
a special kind. It was institutionalized as a discipline that decisively shaped
an influential tradition in European culture. It serves as a pragmatic aid that
helps to improve and sharpen recollection. Beyond that it is established as a
distinct part of the cultural domain (the social stock of knowledge), so that
generation after generation can draw upon its contents. No other art or science
of antiquity has been legitimized through such a detailed legend of its origin
as that of the ars memoriae; none is linked with an inventor whose name has been
so emphatically inscribed in cultural memory as that of Simonides through the
marble tablet of Paros.
invention of mnemotechnics inspired a hybrid myth containing those tales of
memoria that were later to unfold in rhetorical, postrhetorical, and
neorhetorical traditions. Several key concepts, which helped to shape various
styles of memoria, had their source in the mythical tales: forgetting and
remembering (as mechanisms that establish a culture), the storing of knowledge (as
a tradition's strategy for survival), the need for cultural experience to be
preserved by a bearer (of memory) as witness, or as text. The myth anticipates
the competition in mnemotechics between writing and image, and the copresence of
the working of memory and death.
Preserving cultural memory involves something like an apparatus for remembering
by duplication, by the representation of the absent through the image (phantasma
or simulacrum), by the objectification of memory (as power and ability, as a
space of consciousness, or as thesaurus), and by the prevention of forgetting
through the retrieval of images (the constant recuperation of lost meaning).
legend tells of an earthquake which caused the building, where the feasters at a
banquet were seated in a certain order, to collapse. It tells of the mutilation
of their faces, so that it was impossible to recognize them and to remember
their names. The poet Simonides, was the only one to survive the catastrophe by
the intervention of the twin gods Castor and Pollux (the Dioscurai), He was able
to attach the original names to the unrecognizable faces by recalling the seat
order at the banquet.
acts as a witness to the old, abandoned order that has been rendered
unrecognizable by an epochal break. He restores this order through an «inner
writing» and reading, using images that function in the same way as letters. It
is the experience of forgetting that turns devastation
into disorder. The forgetting of order, as a subjective factor, and the
destruction of order, as an objective factor, go hand in hand.
Forgetting is the
catastrophe, a given semiotic order is obliterated. It can only be restored by
instituting a discipline that reestablishes semiotic «generation» and
interpretation. At the beginning of memoria as art stands the effort to
transform the work of mourning into a technique. The finding of images heals
what has been destroyed: the art of memoria restores shape to the mutilated
victims and makes them recognizable by establishing their place in life. Only
through the reconstruction of the collocatio, the arrangement or sequence in
which they sat as they feasted, can images of their faces be produced that makes
possible the naming and identifying of their bodies. Those so identified can
then be interred.
significance of the legend, or mythical narrative, emerges in the retellings by
Cicero and Quintilian. With somewhat different accents, they both define
mnemonics as imagination, as a combination of the experience of order and the
invention of images. Images as representatives of things, res, and names, verba,
to be remembered are registered in preordained spatial arrangements and
deposited in imaginary spaces such as temples, public places, spacious rooms.
When the mind traverses such depositories of mnemic images, the images are
recollected, arranged in a series and then made to revert into the elements for
which they substituted.
important in Cicero's version of the Simonides legend is that it conceals its
mythological background and that it disregards the layer of meaning formed by
the cult of commemoration and ancestor worship. The technique recommended by
Cicero refers specifically to the memorization of texts; he mentions the
invention of mnemotechnics in his De oratore. For Cicero it is speech
that has to be conceptualized and remembered, and not so much the ancestors (to
whom the speech may nonetheless be addressed). Cicero's metamorphic fabula
demonstrates the process of transformation from cult to commemoration.
version of the Simonides legend marks the point where mnemotechnics begins to
serve practical rhetoric. Here, the way the world is to be conceived is linked
with the way in which its elements are to be recovered. The ordering of
knowledge leads to the
formation of systems; the representation of what is
absent, to the formation of models. When it is a question of system formation,
the completeness of memorized knowledge, the repeatability of knowledge,
classification, etc., we find that spatial conceptions dominate pictorial ones.
When it is a question of model building, interpretation, or conceptualization,
however, the imaginative dominates the spatial.
interpretation of the Simonides-legend Cicero offers a new insight into the
relation between image and script. He equates the fundamental factors of
mnemotechnics, locus and imago, with the wax tablet, cera, and the letter,
littera. These equations, wax tablet-mnemonic place, letter-image are essential
in his argument. In the second book of De oratore the work of memory
requires the sketching of an inner image. This inner image must designate the
object that is to be remembered, an object that is invisible, no longer present.
The image becomes the visible sign for that object etching itself in the memory
place. The images are registered in the mnemonic space-just as letters are
scratched into a writing tablet.
Quintilian's concept of the image has Greek sources (their terms imago, effigies
and simulacrum are the equivalents of the Greek term phantasma). In Aristotle's
treatise On memory and recollection the phantasma functions as a mnemonic
medium which represents objects once perceived by the. senses. However, the
interpretation of the phantasma is ambiguous. It functions not only as the
representative of something absent and past but also as its deceptive,
of the feigning of imagines or simulacra, as taken up by Quintilian, includes a
loss of similarity that leads to a distorting vision of things. For Quintilian,
the advocate of classical representation notions, this is a vitium animae, which
he consequently rejects. The skepticism concerning the image-bound practice of
remembering culminates in what Frances Yates named an "inner iconoclasm". The
idea of a system-oriented representation prevails and replaces iconographic
mnemonics 2. The encyclopedic paradigm
In the 17th
century the process of accumulating knowledge and of ordering it systematically
reached its peak. Representations of knowledge now follow the encyclopedic
paradigm. The Baroque period is marked by the emergence of different modes
governing the organization and transmission of knowledge.
modes originated with Raimundus Lullus, the Catalan Franciscan of the 13th
century. The German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher of the Collegium Romanum,
scientist, scholar, linguist and founder of Egyptology represents one model,
Johannes Amos Comenius, Bishop of the Moravian-Bohemian Brotherhood, philosopher
and pedagogue in the Erasmian tradition, another 3.
Kircher constructs a sophisticated edifice of erudition based on calculation and
his ars combinatoria in order to reveal the inner structure of the world hidden
in the accumulated data, Comenius formulates a lucid view of the nature of
learning: things to be known and names to be remembered. Whereas Kircher relies
on numbers and letters, Comenius prefers language combined with imagery. Both
strive for an exhaustive encyclopedic summary of knowledge. Kircher's diagrams
in his Ars Magna Sciendi sive combinatoria (1669) employ numeric and
alphabetic devices derived from the Lullistic tradition. Comenius' Orbis
sensualium pictus (1658) invites adolescents to enter the visible,
perceptible world with the aid of pictura and nomenclatura, which comprise all
fundamental things, actions and notions of the world. The combination of pictura
and nomenclatura replaces and amplifies the traditional category for the
preservation of accumulated knowledge: the topica. In making use of evidentia,
enargei, a rhetorical as well as a mnemonic device, Comenius modifies the
Simonedian art of memory. The imagines in Simonides' art, located at distinct
loci, replace the things to be remembered, they are imaginary products. The
procedure could be called an activation of inward memory. The Orbis pictus of
Comenius materializes this procedure: imagines are visible and refer directly to
the object they represent (i.e., they are not to be retranslated).
Kircher's methods of accumulation and representation, including categorization
and comparison, consist of lists of alphabets, languages and religious beliefs,
exotic objects, curiosities of nature, art, and science (the latter were
exhibited in the museum he founded in the Collegio Romano
4). At the same time he follows a tendency to abbreviation, to a
steganographic notation of knowledge, a cryptographic transmission of knowledge
5. Memory is no longer stimulated by the emotionall appeal of
striking images; the principle of similitude is abandoned and replaced by
abstraction. Yet a visual dimension marks even the pictureless representation:
knowledge is inscribed in places. The order of the diagrams, the number-letter
edifices are made visible. In Kircher' case, abbreviation, amplification,
systematisation and abstraction serve as mnemonic devices.
Orbis pictus combines the ars memorativa with the concept of visualisation.
The totality of knowledge is represented by a set of principles taking recourse
to an imagery which encompasses or rather condenses the fundamentalia of the
world in images. The commemorative function of images in his Orbis pictus
encompasses 150 elements.
and Comenius strive for an ars generalis, a clavis universalis, capable of
representing the sum total of existing knowledge. The mnemonic concept
underlying the combinatory network externalizes memory in diagrams. Comenius'
Orbis pictus also externalizes memory but does so in the form of a book to
be read and seen. Both models reappear in modern systems by which knowledge is
transmitted. Whereas the former, in a manner of speaking, has a dehumanizing
aspect, the latter, not surprisingly, became one of the leading pedagogical
manuals and is considered to be part of a tradition proceeding down to the most
current methods of audiovisual instruction. The Ars combinatoria is
discussed these days as a significant step in the early history of computer
There were other attempts at replacing the ancient mnemotech-nics that
preceded the diagrammatic and the picture-nomenclatura procedures. I am
referring to an outstanding example of a scenic representation, Giulio Camillo's
Theatro della memoria, built for Francis I of France in the 16th century.
Camillo's amphitheatrical architecture was well known to the learned public of
the time. It consisted of nine ranks and seven sections which were dominated by
symbols of the planets and the sephirot, and rested on a foundation of drawers
which contained the fundamental texts of humankind It made the idea of an
ordo-memoria visible. The storage of astral, mythological, allegorical and
textual data arranged in a strict order and structured by grades and sections,
is considered a revolutionary act in the history of ars memorativa6. It
suspended the traditional idea of memorizing. In order to be exposed to the
collected stock of knowledge, the disciple merely needed to enter the theatre
and take a position in its centre. Placed on the scene as a passive actor he did
not have to do anything but to allow the elements of knowledge, arranged on the
ranks, to act upon him. Camillo's was the idea that energy emanated from
knowledge, that it was concentrated in the building, and that it would penetrate
the disciple - an idea which he gained from speculations about astral influence.
Imbued with knowledge, the disciple was no longer bound to memorize, nor even to
The last paradigm, the
diegetic, encompasses divergent modes of recording the past. This recording,
or recalling, is a complex and controversial process of reconstruction which
takes place in literal and oral genres: myth, epos, historiography, and, of
course the historic novel history fiction.
In societies without
mnemotechnical concepts and without disciplines established for their
cultivation, this paradigm represents the totality of memory. It reflects the
various ways in which collective life is organized. Narration has always been a
form of memorizing and recording. In the epic tradition reproduction and
repetition of oral texts (having recourse to certain schemes in metrics,
epitheta ornantia and syntactic parallelisms) are such forms of memorizing. At
the same time they record events of the heroic past which are constitutive for
the way the epic community understands itself.
The diegetic paradigm
encompasses not only narration but also rules for the commemorative acts
performed in society. The selective treatment of the past (which regularly
provokes opposition from those who hold different ideas about what deserves to
be incorporated in the cultural tradition) is connected to rituals of
commemoration, the veneration of places (graveyards, war monuments), and the
functioning of institutions (such as museums, national libraries etc).
Certain types of
historiography tend to institutionalize cultural memory, and certain models of
memory have an impact on the writing of history. The principles giving form to
memory also shape the articulation of history, and the principles guiding the
writing of history act upon the formation of memory. An antagonism between
memory and the writing of history arises, when a cherished memory is kept alive
in spite of its' being proven false by conscientious historiographic
reconstruction of the past. New disclosures and reintepretations of documents,
the discovery of war atrocities, uncovering their traces in mass-graves, may
alter the entire edifice built up in cultural memory. A past that was venerated
as heroic may be thus lost or radically reinterpreted. The alternative is to
deny the truth of certain findings because, if they were accepted everything
that was taken for granted about the past would break down. Entire periods of
history are thus either demo-nized or glorified.
If societies contain
groups, e.g., social classes, that hold antagonistic ideologies, obviously an
interpretation - or re-interpretation of the past which is acceptable to one is
anathema to the other. Controversial memories emerge - emphasising certain
historical data and omitting others. Under certain circumstances, compromise
solutions can be negotiated. Criteria of inclusion and exclusion determine the
mechanisms of resistance to, or acceptance of, a revision of the past. A
striking example from the recent past is the rewriting of the last century of
the history of Russia.
Spectacular erasures of
vast sections of a society's or group's memory are known to have occurred. A
culture may be profoundly transformed by planned extinction of parts of the past
that are intolerable to a ruling elite that arrogates to itself the monopoly of
controlling collective memory. The French Revolution and the Russian October
Revolution are examples which show how planned attempts to destroy a society's «official»
memory, enforced by bureaucratic terreur, reverberate in seemingly arbitrary
ways throughout the entire culture. The deletion of visible signs endowed with
memory was part of the appalling devastation of urban and and sacral
architecture during the recent Balkan wars.
attacks on memory cannot themselves escape the general mechanisms which seem to
regulate the continuities and discontinuities in the «life» of a culture: the
apparent balance of remembering and forgetting, of recollection and oblivion.
The selective transmission of the past is based on a complex evaluative
procedure which ultimately decides which strands of tradition are kept alive and
woven into a whole and which are abandoned. Some elements of the past may loose
- or seem to loose - their relevance for the way a society looks at its past and
present. They simply fade away, yet may reappear unexpectedly in a new context
of collective life. Other elements are deleted and destroyed, seemingly forever.
Others, are banished for a time, but may be allowed to return. They may even
gain added significance at a later stage 7.
The role of literature in
a culture is obviously linked with the past of the culture in general and that
of its own past in particular. Could it be said, perhaps, that literature
functions as a mnemonic medium? Can it be assumed that literature evolved along
with the art of memory in a parallel process? The crucial problem here is to
define the ways in which mnemic imaginatio and poetic imagination interact. Do
they mirror each other and comment upon one another? Or is it more plausible to
assume that literary iconography necessarily appeals to mnemic iconography, that
the image bank of literature is the same as the image bank of memory? Does the
image-producing activity of memory incorporate poetic imagination?
It is difficult to decide
which alternative provides the correct answer. It is certainly the case that
there are striking parallels between fantasy and memory. They both represent
absent objects with images. For both the image is ambiguous, both true and false.
However, the alternatives may not be as clear cut, they may not radically
exclude one another. In philosophical and aesthetical treatises in antiquity as
well as in the works of thinkers of later periods both the parallels between
fantasy and memory and their interaction in the form of a coalition between the
two are pointed out. In his essay Pleasures of Imagination (1712) the
English empiricist Joseph Addison defines primary pleasures as derived from
sight, which he calls «the most perfect and most delightful of all our senses»,
secondary pleasures are pleasures of imagination, «which flow from the ideas of
visible objects, when the objects are not actually before the eye, but are
called up into our memories, or formed into agreeable visions of things that are
either absent of fictitious». Things absent are either due to past impressions
or experiences or they are products of fantasy, fictitious. In Giambattista
Vico's treatise Szienza Nuova (1744), a third factor enters the coalition
between phantasia and memoria, namely ingenium. Vico's argument is based on
anthropological conceptions. It defines phantasia, memoria and ingenium as human
capacities, capacities that are indivisible from each other. Whereas fantasy
transforms what memory offers, ingenium is the capacity which orders and
registers what has been remembered. Yet, even ingenium is not an innocent
transmitter of the past, since it is related to inventio.
If we accept the notion that
poetry, originally oral poetry, participates in the mnemonic knowledge of
imagery in the same way that mnemonics has assimilated the (lost) original
legacy of the poetic perception of the world, then we may surmise that, through
mnemotech-nics, elementary achievements of imaginative remembering have been
pragmatized - inasmuch as these achievements, as acts of memory, serve as the
basis of all acts of literature from their very inception in oral art.
When literature is
considered in the light of memory, it appears as the mnemonic art par excellence.
Literature is culture's memory, not as a simple recording device but as a body
of commemorative actions. Literature inscribes itself in a memory space into
which earlier texts have inscribed themselves. It does not leave these earlier
texts as it finds them but transforms them in absorbing them. The memory of a
text is its intertextuality. Intertextuality, as the term is conceived in
literary scholarship, is the semantic interchange, the contact between texts -
literary and non-literary.
Authors draw on other
texts, both ancient and recent ones, belonging to their own or another culture
and refer to them in various ways. They allude to them, they quote and
paraphrase them, they incorporate them. They may use methods such as inversion
and resemantisa-tion: as in parody or travesty and they may syncretistically
patch together elements from different texts. The reference can be to entire
texts, to a textual paradigm, to a genre, to certain elements of a given text,
to a stylistic device, to narrative technique, to motifs etc.
the process by which a culture, where «culture» is a book culture, continually
rewrites and retran-scribes itself, constantly redefining itself through its
signs. Writing is both an act of memory and a new interpretation, by which every
new text is etched into memory space.
I should like to stress that
the memory of the text is formed by the intertextuality of its references.
Intertextuality arises in the act of writing inasmuch as each new act of writing
is a traversal of the space between existing texts. By inserting itself into the
mnemonic space between texts, a text, inevitably creates a transformed mnemonic
space, a textual depository whose syntax and semantics could be described in the
language of the Simonidean mnemotechnics as loci and imagines. In the same way
that the wax tablet is replaced by the architecture of memory, the architecture
of memory is replaced by the textual space of literature. The text traverses
memory spaces and settles into them. At the same time, every added text enriches
the mnemonic space which new texts will traverse.
Literature is a mnemonic medium which not only creates new texts to be
remembered but also recovers suppressed knowledge, revives obsolete knowledge
and reincorporates formerly rejected unofficial or arcane traditions of
knowledge. The particular mode of writing which deals with such knowledge is the
literature of the fantastic.
The fantastic mode of writing pursues
the project of creating alternative worlds: the supernatural, the marvellous,
the adventurous. In addition, it attempts to compensate for what was lost as a
result of cultural constraints 8. That which had been silenced
regains its voice, that which was made invisible recaptures its shape and that
which was buried is disinterred. The fantastic thus operates as a mnemonic
device that makes the forgotten or repressed reappear in the guise of an imagery
by which the «real» is connected with the unknown. The real is, on a first level,
that which is taken as real in common sense and/or an «officially» legitimated
view of reality. On a second level, it includes a representation of that first
level in an axiological model. In the fantastic mode of writing, the «real'» is
confronted with an otherness: the forgotten, unfamiliar and unseen. In that
confrontation, the taken-for-granted categories of presence and representation
are displaced. The fantastic world threatens the world of everyday reality with
oblivion. Telling examples are to be found in preromantic, romantic and
postromantic fanstastic narratives. The Gothic novel likes to clothe its horrors
in historical costume, it likes to search for ancestral roots of present
catastrophies, and one of its central motifs is the family secret.
It was literature that
supported and nourished obsolete traditions of knowledge, traditions which ran
as an undercurrent below the mainstream of Enlightenment. The reinvigoration of
counter-enlightenment in Romantic philosophy of nature, especially in Germany,
had an enormous impact on the fantastic literature of that time.
The disciplines of arcane
knowledge with their doctrines and practices, the secrets of alchemy, the
symbolic language of the kabbala, Anton Mesmer's use of animal magnetism for a
therapeutic method all of which Enlightenment rejected and discredited,
resurface. At the time, even products of technology such as electrical machines
and photography were brought into connection with arcane knowledge. The idea
that contact with the dead was possible and could be proved - as in spiritistic
seances - «was supported» by certain photographic techniques. The authors of
fantastic texts were fascinated by the exclusive nature of secrets, by their
ritualistic preservation and transmission, and by the hope of regaining through
them long-forgotten insights into human nature and the lost
order of the world. Scientifically not fully approved techniques, such as
hypnocures and hypnosis, persisted along - or «under» the enlightened
disciplines and sciences proper. Literature with its penchant for the fantastic
kept knowledge of these techniques and their results alive in the minds of the
reading public. A forgotten past is encountered again in fantastic literature.
The recounting of that past heals an occluded memory 9.
However, the fantastic is not
merely a mnemonic medium with a selective passion for restoring displaced and
vanished parts of the past. Fantastic literature invents as much as it retrieves.
Its speculative potential creates images which arbitrarily cover up the accepted
images of mnemonic space. An aggressive ars oblivionalis culminates in the
obliteration of accumulated, transmitted knowledge and the creation of
counter-memory, in the «conception» of a tabula rasa. This can be seen in some
of the narratives of Jorge Luis Borges, one of the representatives of a
neo-fantastic strand in the literature of the 20th century. Borges pursues the
project of a memory which is to surmount the mnemonic tradition and its
culturally sedimented imagery in order to install a chronotope of its own. The
destruction of the inherited mnemonic architecture and the topical categories,
upon which it was built, opens up space heteronomy and a-topia. Language is
stripped of its semantic constraints. The construction of complex alternatives
of knowledge, in which deprave.d and illicit modes of thought mix with mental
phantasms, follows the logic of non-logic and establishes a monstrously unreal
world. The fantastic in Borges appears as a counter-project to the projects of
cultural memory and to an imaginary potential that is firmly anchored in
tradition. It operates on behalf of the «not yet seen» and the «not yet thought
of», and proposes unprecedented designs and experiments in calculation that are
to serve the construction of impossible worlds.
Another mode of the fantastic
is science fiction, some of which deserves to be called prognostic. It could be
said that it functions as a kind of anticipatory memory. While observing the
demands of probability and verisimilitude, it takes up doubtful or rejected
scientific theories. Science fiction does not instal the impossible; it rather
concentrates on the not yet possible (see Stanislaw Lem 10), using
scientific ideas whose speculative potential has not yet been exhausted.
Authors of literary texts
like to explicate their own memory concepts. Some develop intricate «mythopoetic»
theories which betray the assimilation of philosophy or literary theory.
The manifests of
avangardist movements (e.g., Italian and Russian futurism) proclaim the death of
the established artistic-literary tradition in order to begin anew on its ruins.
The corresponding literary theory, formulated by Russian formalism, sees
literary (cultural) evolution as an alternation of systems, advocating
discontinuity and disrupture as the moving force.
The concepts of wishful
forgetting are not unprecedented. Oblivion has been conceived in terms of a
tabula rasa. For Descartes, the erasure of all knowledge, the deletion of
received ideas, is the beginning of thinking. As a matter of fact, there are
even more radical modes of deleting all traces of the unwanted. The blanching of
memory, a term introduced by the medievalist Janet Coleman, defines a certain
ascetic practice (exercised in monastic orders). It consists in cathartically
erasing in one's imagination all unpleasant or forbidden images. A practice of
an ars oblivionalis which could be termed the opposite of mnemotechnics.
The radical opposite to the
programmatic dismissal of the past, advocated by the futurists, is to be found
in the movement of the so called Acmeists, a group of Russian postsymbolist
poets whose best known representatives were Anna Achmatova and Osip Mandelstam.
The latter proposed an elaborate theory of cultural memory which owes some of
its constituent ideas to Henri Bergson's notions of time, duration, evolution
and memory. The past is grasped as becoming, as deferred meaning that neither
was nor is but is always being projected into the future. By treating culture as
a kind of macroconsciousness, Mandelstam transposes Bergsonian concepts, that
originally related to human consciousnes, to the realm of culture. Retrospection
is an approach to history which is carried on by writing. It is an attempt to
participate in the past of a culture as a whole.
Disordered pluralism, the
disengagement from divisible, measurable time, the plurivocal answer of the
poetic word to the earlier times, the experience of distinct temporal strata -
all these aspects of Mandelstam's conceptual imagery are echoes of Bergsonian
concepts. Bergson rejected the notion of time as a succession of discrete,
infinitely divisible units, and opposed to it the notion of duration (durée).
A given temporal whole contains a plurality of times in inner experience. Pure
duration is heterogeneous. In human consciousness it is indivisible, it is all
The proximity of Mandelstam's
thought to Bergson is obvious. Remembering is not the restitution of a unified,
monadic complex but the recalling of heterogeneous, interrelated strata. For
Mandelstam culture is a totality that encompasses the continuous accumulation of
elements, which cannot be related to one another in terms of measurable time. In
order to make time into an achronic synchrony, Mandelstam extricates it from the
iron rule of sequentiality. Heterogeneity is stored in the text and in memory;
it is itself a phenomenon of time, just as time is a phenomenon of the
In his reading of the
Bergsonian concept of time as évolution créatrice
and durée irréversible,
Mandelstam takes into account Bergson's ideas of past, present, and future, as
well as his theory of the role of memory. Bergson's notion of the accumulation
of the past in the present led him to postulate a mechanism suppressing those
things in memory that are unnecessary for grasping the present. Acmeist memory -
deviating from Bergson at this point - is directed expressly against the
forgetting of signs, against their utilitarian suppression. For them, durée
is possible only as the storing of continually accruing layers of memory. The
creative act of writing is immersed in duration. The act of writing prevents
that which has been gathered in memory and in remembering from acquiring a
Mandelstam's formulaic statement «Memory
triumphs even at the price of death! To die is to remember, to remember is to
die» expresses a transindividual concept of memory. Dying as remembering means
that the cultural experience stored by an individual (a writer) outlives that
same person. Memory enshrined in writing is directed against the destruction of
cultural experience. The locus of this transindividual, noninheritable memory is
the text 11.
This mythopoetic interpretation of
memory is not far removed from the mnemotechnical concept presented in the first
paradigm. The transformation of mnemonic contents into mnemonic images results
in spatial pictorialization, in an artificial memory. The rooms or places where
the images are deposited are part of a mnemonic architecture. Acmeist memoria
renders the concept of mnemonic architecture in a concrete shape. The great
mnemonic architecture of the Acmeists is represented by Petersburg. The city is
experienced architecture that contains whatever has been deposited in it as a
Mnemonic locations are
hypostasized as a storehouse of personal and historical experience, of
literature and the general culture of an entire epoch. Sanct Petersburg, the
city of the founding Peter I, the city of the Decabrists; Petrograd, the city of
revolution and civil war, Leningrad, the city of the siege by the Germans, of
death by cold and starvation, they become an allegory of memory. As in the
ancient myth telling us about the poet Simonides, who transformed his experience
of death and devastation into a discipline of commemoration, these poets of the
20th century, haunted by experiences of death and destruction, endow their texts
with the profound strength of commemoration.
The paradigms I discussed don't
follow one another in a temporal sequence, nor are they causally related, nor
are they competitive. They are complementary. Even the mnemotechnical paradigm
which might seem outdated, continued its career as an undercurrent of mnemonic
practice. The encyclopedic paradigm, both in its diagrammatical and its
pictorial version, continued developing ever since its beginnings. The diegetic
paradigm is the one we constantly apply when reflecting upon remote or recent
history. They all reveal the human striving to come to terms with its past and
to absorb the knowledge transmitted from it.
1 Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory. L.: Routledge and Kegan
2 Cf. my interpretation in: Lachmann R. Memory and Literature. Minneapolis; L:
University of Minnesota Press, 1997. P. 4-24.
3 Leinkauf T. Cf. Mundus combinatus. Studien zur Struktur der barock-en
Universalwissenschaft am Beispiel Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680). Berlin:
Akademie Verlag, 1993.
4 Athanasius Kircher SJ. II Museo del mondo. Ed. Eugenio Lo Sardo. Rome:
Edizioni di Luca, 2001. Reinhard Golz, Werner Korthaase, Erich Schafer (Eds.),
Comenius und unsere Zeit, Baltmannsweiler: Schneider Verlag Hohengehren, 1996.
5 Eco U. Kircher tra steganografia e poligrafia // II museo del mondo. P.
6 Bolzoni L. Lo spettacolo della memoria. (Introduction to Camillo's treatise
L'Idea del theatro). Palermo: Sellerio Editore, 1998.
7 Lotman J., Uspenskij B. On the Semiotic Mechanism of Culture //
8 Cf.: Jackson R. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. L.: Methuen, 1981.
9 Cf.: Lachmann R. Remarks on the Foreign as a Figure of Cultural Ambivalence /
Budick S., Iser W. (Eds.) // The Translatibility of Cultures. Stanford/California:
Stanford University Press, 1996. P. 282-294.
10 See his fundamental theoretical work: Lem S. Fantastyka i futurolo-gia: In 2
vols. Cracow: Wydawnictwo Literackie Krakdw, 1970.
11 Cf.: Lachmann R. Memory and Literature. P. 231-261.
* * *
Статья Ренаты Лахманн посвящена проблеме культурной памяти и роли литературы в
процессе исторической эволюции.
О феномене культурной памяти размышляли уже в античные времена в связи с
вопросами познания мира (при помощи искусства в том числе). Мифологические
сюжеты также стимулировали формирование художественной памяти и определяли
становление традиции. Забвение прошлого недопустимо и может привести (и
приводит) к культурной катастрофе.
оказывается своеобразным посредником между прошлым, настоящим и будущим, при
обращении к прошлому более внятно и четко вырисовывается роль человека в
Симонид и Цицерон, Аристотель и философы XVII в. входят в круг
размышлений автора, так как каждый из них трактовал по-своему феномен культурной
памяти. По мнению автора, культурная рефлексия во многом определяет характер
литературного творчества и социокультурные процессы.
знаний, относящихся к разным культурным периодам, приводит к возникновению
Память культуры - особый и уникальный феномен, оказывающий значительное
воздействие на историческое развитие, особенно в гуманитарном аспекте.