Places and Traces Jay Winter Tree ring showing damage to a tree in the period of the First World War. The tree survived bombardments in the Ypres sector on the Western front, but the black indications of damage were incorporated in later tree rings. From In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres, Belgium There are three kinds of traces of the past we live with. There is firstly, what Paul Ricoeur termed the affective trace,1 full of the force of immediacy, the trigger of powerful impressions, like Proust’s rush of emotion when he dipped 1 Paul Ricoeur, La mémoire, l’histoire, l’oubli (Paris: Ed. du Seuil, 2000), p. 134. I do not share Ricoeur’s distinction between affective traces and corporeal traces, which he develops in this study. Memory traces have affect imbedded in them. But my debt to Ricoeur is evident. No one in this field has done more than Ricoeur to clarify the difficult conceptual issues in it. 18 Jay Winter his madeleine in his herbal tea, and found that his childhood reveries had been reborn miraculously. Affect is what makes memories linger. They leave biochemical imprints in our brains. These memory traces may be retrieved, if we are lucky, and if we so desire, in later years. The traces are not stable, and some may vanish entirely. But we all use them to construct autobiographical memory. Through ‘I know because I was there’ statements, survivors create narratives about their lives. Like memories, these narratives are by no means fixed....
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