Festschrift for Tadhg Foley
Revolution and Remembrance Terry Eagleton 265
Revolution and Remembrance Terry Eagleton One of the more alarming claims of late modernity is that it is oblivion that is natural to us, not remembrance. For Freud, remembering is simply forgetting to forget. Modernity unfolds by a ceaseless, pathological disa- vowal of the past, a persistent Oedipal revolt in which the present claims to be entirely self-authoring, sprung whole and entire from its own loins, as apparently innocent of antecedents as the so-called virgin territories which greeted the imperial invaders. Modernity is a state of perpetual amnesia, as a hubristic, Faustian desire passes all the way through its various contingent objects, contrasts them disdainfully with its own sublime infinity, spurns them as worthless, erases them from memory, and ends up rejoining the only love object it thinks worth having (namely, itself ). Everything that happened up to ten minutes ago is consigned to the trash can of history by an epoch foolishly proud of its bang up-to-dateness – one which even names itself after that up-to-dateness (‘modernity’), which is almost as stupid as calling yourself Fatso. Because of course all epochs are up-to-date. Classical antiquity, one presumes, didn’t feel in the least geriatric. The Middle Ages didn’t know that they were in the middle of anything, any more than the Dark Ages were conscious of stumbling around searching for the light switch. It is true that we always know more than the past knew, simply because we know something of its after-effects. There is a sense in which we understand a...
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