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«We Search the Past … for Our Own Lost Selves.»

Representations of Historical Experience in Recent American Fiction


Marta Koval

The book is a study of the most recent American fiction, published at the turn of the 21th century, which demonstrates a renewed interest in the matters of history. Using the concepts of memory and experience, the author points at the ways in which subjective history has been created in the new «novel about history», written by such authors as William Gass, Richard Powers, Marilynne Robinson, Nicholson Baker, Aleksandar Hemon, and Jeffrey Eugenides. Theoretically, the study has been inspired by the works of Aleida Assmann, Hayden White, Reinhart Koselleck, Frank Ankersmit, and Dominick LaCapra.


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Chapter III. Visual Tools of Subjective History-Making


Chapter III Visual Tools of Subjective History-Making 1. Micro- and macro-historical dimensions of art and its interpretation in Richard Powers’s novel Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance In Cultural Memory and Western Civilization Assmann singles out images as one of the key mnemonic media capable of generating metaphors and models for the internal dynamics of memory. As the development of photography and later digital images in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries demonstrated, images depend on technological progress more than any other medium of memory. From being viewed as a simple tool for data storage, they have transformed into a mnemonic instrument equal to writing and have opened up new possibilities for dealing with the past. Although paintings and most other traditional image types have not disappeared from literature and culture, their role in the storage and operation of memory has declined because of the development of photography, film, and digital images that, to a considerable extent, have replaced them and changed the nature of remembering: As long as photographic and film analogies engraved their images through traces onto material carriers, memory theory . . . was dominated by the idea that such traces were solid and inextinguishable. In this age of digital media, however, which no longer engrave but coordinate wires and set impulses in motion, we are swiftly moving away from such theories. Memory is no longer viewed as trace and storage, but as a malleable substance that is constantly being reshaped under the changing pressures and perspectives of...

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