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Committing the Future to Memory

History, Experience, Trauma

Sarah Clift

Publication Year: 2013

Whereas historical determinacy conceives the past as a complex and unstable network of causalities, this book asks how history can be related to a more radical future. To pose that question, it does not reject determinacy outright but rather seeks to explore how it works. In examining what it means to be "determined" by history, it also asks what kind of openings there might be in our encounters with history for interruptions, re-readings, and re-writings. Engaging texts spanning multiple genres and several centuries from John Locke to Maurice Blanchot, from Hegel to Benjamin Clift looks at experiences of time that exceed the historical narration of experiences said to have occurred in time. She focuses on the co-existence of multiple temporalities and opens up the quintessentially modern notion of historical succession to other possibilities. The alternatives she draws out include the mediations of language and narration, temporal leaps, oscillations and blockages, and the role played by contingency in representation. She argues that such alternatives compel us to reassess the ways we understand history and identity in a traumatic, or indeed in a post-traumatic, age.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-v

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pp. vii-viii

I am very glad for the chance to express my gratitude to the many people who helped me in this work, without whom its completion would have remained an insurmountable problem (to use Maurice Blanchot’s apt phrase). First and foremost, I would like to thank Ian Balfour, Howard Adelman, and Stephen Levine for their unwavering ...

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pp. 1-7

In the preface to the second edition of the Science of Logic, Hegel refers to “the peculiar restlessness and distraction of our modern consciousness.”1 Although the tone of this statement makes it sound like something to be avoided or at any rate minimized, a moment’s reflection tells us that for Hegel, it is one of modernity’s irreducible and ...

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Chapter One. Narrative Life Span, in the Wake

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pp. 8-40

Jacques Derrida’s lecture “Mnemosyne,” written shortly after the death of Paul de Man and devoted both to his work and to the friendship they shared, opens with a statement that is as complex as it is succinct. Its tone is sorrowful, compounding the loss to which it testifies by indicating from the outset what the lecture will lack: “I,” he ...

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Chapter Two. Memory in Theory

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pp. 41-73

As we saw in Chapter 1, one of the achievements of Arendt’s and Benjamin’s critiques of history is to have drawn attention to the ways in which modern history effectively eliminates the dimension of human experience from its discursive structure. The question remains, though, as to how to situate the concept of experience with respect to ...

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Chapter Three. Mourning Memory

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pp. 74-131

Despite the more complicated reading of Locke’s Essay that I hope to have generated in Chapter 2—especially in terms of the kinds of temporality that are generated when memory is understood to be mediated in and through language—it nonetheless remains the case that a more conventional understanding of Locke’s Essay prevails in discussions ...

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Chapter Four. Speculating on the Past,the Impact of the Present

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pp. 132-171

To argue for a rigorous reading of the “end” of historical time in Hegel is, in some sense, the condition for thinking the experience of narrative time in a mode other than that of the simple linearity of continuous progression. In Chapter 3, we demonstrated how Hegel’s complex mode of narrating the pastness of “art in its highest determination” ...

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Chapter Five. In Lieu of a Last Word

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pp. 172-200

To end with a discussion of the work of Maurice Blanchot is rife with difficulties, two of which I will mention by way of beginning. The first involves the sheer difficulty of reading his work. While to be sure, this seems to be something of a “side issue,” it is one with important consequences: An encounter with Blanchot’s texts—whether those of ...


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pp. 201-236

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pp. 237-246

Aarsleff, Hans. From Locke to Saussure: Essays on the Study of Language and Intellectual History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Agacinski, Sylviane. Time Passing: Modernity and Nostalgia. Trans. Jody Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998....


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pp. 247-255

E-ISBN-13: 9780823254248
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823254200
Print-ISBN-10: 0823254208

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth

OCLC Number: 859536876
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Committing the Future to Memory

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Historiography -- Philosophy.
  • Civilization, Modern -- Philosophy.
  • Benjamin, Walter, 1892-1940.
  • Arendt, Hannah, 1906-1975.
  • Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770-1831.
  • Locke, John, 1632-1704.
  • Blanchot, Maurice.
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