Tony Harrison’s dramatic works frequently engage with issues of cultural memory, both what is remembered and what is forgotten. In most instances, Harrison explores these issues by engaging with canonical texts, which, like certain examples of material culture—particularly monumental architecture—are marked by both their duration and by the accretion of a multiplicity of interpretations and symbolic functions. These works become, to use Pierre Nora’s term, lieux de mémoire, “sites of memory,” endowed by the collective cultural imagination with a symbolic aura. Nora noted “that lieux de mémoire only exist because of their capacity for metamorphosis, an endless recycling of their meaning and an unpredictable proliferation of their ramifications” (19). It is with the metamorphic nature of mythic characters, texts, and sites that Harrison engages as they provide him spaces endowed with significance by both the past and the present: these are spaces in which collective and cultural memory has been repeatedly constructed through the centuries. Numerous aspects of memory in Harrison’s work could be fruitfully explored, but this paper limits itself to a relatively brief discussion of Harrison’s examination of remembrance, or the lack thereof, in the mythic examples of Hecuba, Medea, and Hercules, and the historical figures such as Faustina and the anonymous victims of contemporary conflicts.


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pp. 221-236
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2021
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