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  • Introduction
  • Ramesh Mallipeddi (bio) and Cristobal Silva (bio)

This special issue of English Language Notes takes as its focus the topic of memory and its cognates, amnesia and commemoration. Memory has witnessed a remarkable efflorescence in the past few years, both in scholarly work in the humanities and in popular efforts to address the collective forgetting of traumatic pasts. While the interrelationship between history (the study of past events) and memory (the ways in which the past is remembered and accessed), and the role of institutions such as museums and monuments in memorialization have been staple topics of academic historiography, scholars in recent years have turned their attention to how catastrophes—colonization, slavery, war, genocide, and disease pandemics—impact memory, and how traumatic events are remembered by victims, survivors, and descendants. Indeed, as Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman have argued, in modern societies trauma—in its twin senses as a physical scar and metaphoric trace—is synonymous with the "tragic" insofar as that term marks a "new relationship to time and memory, to mourning and obligation, to misfortune and the misfortunate."1 No longer a diagnostic category confined to psychiatry and psychopathology, the language of trauma is increasingly mobilized to speak of "the wounds of the past" in ongoing demands for recognition, reparations, and justice.

The essays collected here address the place of memory, forgetting, and remembrance in what Fassin and Rechtman have called "the moral economy of contemporary societies."2 Contributors broach the topic in its broadest terms and from a range of methodological perspectives. The first two essays, focusing on Indigenous and Native American history and hemispheric American studies, investigate the centrality of material objects to subaltern practices of memorialization. Taking a wooden pegboard presumably recovered from a colonial dwelling destroyed during King Philip's War (1675–78) as "an emotionally resonant artifact of trauma," Christine DeLucia investigates how a historical object can make legible "colonial and Indigenous concepts and practices of memorialization, and their often tangled, dialectical interactions." Indigenous people in colonial America, like other subjugated groups, have left few documentary or textual sources behind, yet this archival erasure can be redressed, tosome extent, via"interdisciplinary, multimedia accountings of the nature and changing forms of 'memory'" as encoded in physical objects. Her essay is a sustained attempt to probe how material objects bring to light "escalating [End Page 1] tensions between Natives and New England colonizers around contested issues of sovereignty, land, religion, language, culture, and governance." DeLucia's attention to such a multimedia accounting is extended in Ananda Cohen-Aponte and Ella Maria Diaz's detailed exegesis of Codex Rodriguez-Mondragó, the artist Sandy Rodriguez's ongoing project of botanical illustrations and large-scale maps of California and northern Mexico. Rodriguez's Chicano Codices—drawing on pre-Hispanic, colonial, and Chicana/o/x visual traditions as well as modern surveillance technologies—create "a temporal irony," "a polyphonic text" of shared memories that reimagines the very territories it maps by positing a cyclical version of time. In particular, Cohen-Aponte and Diaz demonstrate how Rodriguez's artistic procedure employs maps as tools of memory by foregrounding the materiality of the art object (plant, paper, watercolors, pigments harvested from indigenous herbs) to index the "interval of time between the colonial past and the speculative future in the contemporary moment of climate change, species displacements, war, and national uncertainty."

The next two essays move from Indigenous and Chicanx materialist practices of remembrance in the Americas to textual figurations of memory in eighteenth-century novels. In her reading of Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman (a novel in which nearly half of the chapters constitute the memoir that Maria pens for her daughter while incarcerated in a private madhouse), Catherine Engh posits that Wollstonecraft makes the faculties of memory and aesthetic experience integral to the project of female education, faculties that prepare women to retain a measure of autonomy amid prejudices of "modern urbanized society." Indeed, Maria's memoir reflects on the process by which a woman puts the memory of a transformative aesthetic experience in the service of her daughter's education. Approaching the absent presences of the Haitian Revolution in another major Romantic-era novel...


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