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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter September 9, 2022

Introduction: Relations between Literary Theory and Memory Studies

  • Urania Milevski EMAIL logo and Lena Wetenkamp

Memory Studies is an international and interdisciplinary field of research that has grown significantly over the past decades (cf. Gudehus 2010, 1; Hoskins et al. 2008, 5). Remembering and forgetting are still intriguing subjects for many scholars and scientists, as is shown by the journal ›Memory Studies‹ (since 2008) and the ›Memory Studies Association‹ (, since 2017) with its regular symposia and diverse programs, as well as by the ›Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform‹ (www., since 2011).

As interdisciplinary as the field is, as heterogeneous are the objects of study. Memorials, paintings, installations, and what interests us in particular: literature, are being studied for their potential to represent the past in the present. Finding a common language, however, has been a challenge, as a brief look at research developments in recent years shows: in 2008/2009, scholars from all over the world still wondered if a »unified field« was possible at all (Brown et al. 2009, 120), stating repeatedly that Memory Studies would not exist »as a proper discipline« (Roedinger/Wertsch 2008, 19) until appropriate and universally applicable methods and theories were developed. Since then, researchers have been striving for an interdisciplinary understanding of Memory Studies (e. g. Roedinger/Dudai/Fitzpatrick 2007; Erll/Nünning 2010; Olick/Vinitzky-Seroussi/Levy 2011; Kattago 2015; Tota/Hagen 2016). Eleven years ago, Astrid Erll wondered if there would be »a third phase of memory studies« (Erll 2011, 4 sq.). Based on her critique of methodology, new perspectives and methods have indeed been established in Memory Studies in recent years, especially approaches that bring to the fore the entanglement of different acts of remembering (cf. Feindt et al. 2014, 24). In a more recent stocktaking from 2017, Olick, Sierp and Wüstenberg summarized developments in the field with regard to these appeals and stated: »there is by now a large collection of common terms, concepts, theories, and referents that constitute the making of a very significant scholarly field with a vibrant present and future« (Olick/Sierp/Wüstenberg 2017, 491).

One could not only ask why a special issue about literature and memory for the ›Journal of Literary Theory‹ is a necessary project – we were also asked this, both by the editors and some of the contributors. The fact that this issue is being published speaks for a desideratum that still exists, namely to take the literary text seriously as an object of transdisciplinary research. In our view the potential of literary theory for a more systematic approach to Memory Studies has not yet been fully realized. Even when analyzing texts in the context of Memory Studies with its numerous methodological obligations, for example with regard to Cultural Memory Studies, a literary theory should always be at least a reference theory (dt. »Bezugstheorie«, Köppe/Winko/Jannidis 2013, 286 sq.). The contributions to this issue do take the text seriously and in doing so shed new light on existing approaches and concepts in Memory Studies.

Research within Literary Memory Studies often draws on theories of other disciplines. The articles in this volume are no exception: for instance, Ana de Almeida and Christian Wimplinger show how desire for revolutions from the past affects narration, using Bini Adamczak’s term ›desire‹, which in turn builds on Freud’s psychoanalytical research on fetishism (cf. Adamczak 2017). Claudia Mueller-Greene uses the concept of liminality, established in Ethnology and Anthropology, as a new perspective to better understand the ambiguous and creative aspects of memory and of literary texts dealing with memory.

Addressing literature as well as narratives in a wider sense, literary theories are useful instruments for the ›Memory Studies Project‹ as a whole. »Cultural memory is based on communication through media« (Erll 2008, 389), which is why theories from the field of language, literature and media are especially suitable. De Almeida/Wimplinger, for example, analyze the temporal representation in narratives of social upheaval, trying to grasp them as vehicles for transgenerational memory transfer. Mueller-Greene examines narrative devices such as metaphors and unreliable narration as well as structural multi-perspectivity through intertextual and intercultural references and shows how these devices stage the liminal aspects of memory.

In this introduction, we want to (1) once again deal decisively but concisely with the role of literature as a research object for Memory Studies. Contemporary Memory Studies mostly focus on relational, dialogical, and entangled concepts of memory. The most prominent of these theories are certainly Marianne Hirsch’s ›Postmemory‹ (2008, 2012) and Michael Rothberg’s ›Multidirectional Memory‹ (2009), which we therefore address in the following examples, in order to (2) see where and how they work with literature to subsequently discuss how Narratology as an additional theoretical approach can provide a (more) solid base for the findings of Memory Studies with regard to literary texts. Finally (3), we would like to give a brief overview of the essays in this volume, all of which set out to make innovative theoretical approaches and methods usable for Literary Memory Studies.

1 The Role of Literature in Memory Studies

Literature plays a crucial role in the research field of Memory Studies; literature and memory are repeatedly presented as being related in nature. Neumann describes the interlace between literature and memory as twofold: »In their world-creation, literary works resort to culturally predominant ideas of memory, and, through their literary techniques, represent these ideas in an aesthetically condensed form.« (Neumann 2010, 335) According to Erll, at least four areas of Literary Memory Studies can be distinguished: 1) ›ars memoriae‹, a branch of literary history dealing with the significance of ancient mnemonics; 2) ›memory of literature‹: topoi, intertextuality and genre research on the one hand and processes of canon formation and literary historiography on the other; 3) ›memory in literature‹ as representation of memory processes and their analysis; and 4) ›mediality of memory‹, addressing literature and the entanglement of intermedia cultural processes (cf. Erll 2010, 288 sq.).

Literature is capable of staging fictional minds which, as »transparent minds« (Cohn 1978), exhibit inner processes that remain hidden in the actual world.[1] For the field ›memory in literature‹, this means, that fictional texts can expose memorial processes of their characters. In addition to the potential of portraying »unspoken thoughts, feelings, perception of a person other than the speaker« (ibid., 7; cf. Hamburger 1957, 83) fictional texts also possess other ›fictional privileges‹ such as polyvalence and interdiscursivity (cf. Nünning 1995, 153–172; Erll 2005, 258), which enable the staging of memory processes at various levels.

Individual and collective memories form in a complex field between cultural narratives, unconscious processes, and concrete events (cf. Radstone 2000, 10). The representation of memory in the mode of fiction can take liberties in the depiction of the manifold linkages that form this complex field and thus make interlaces visible which are difficult to access in reality. It is precisely this difference between fictional and non-fictional[2] memories and memory processes that is often neglected in favor of emphasizing similarities when literary scholars work with theories from memory research. Although Literary Theory and especially Narratology offers concrete instruments for textual analysis, these two areas are only occasionally combined. Erll’s 2009 question of »how present-day narratological research can benefit from a dialogue with cultural memory studies« (Erll 2009, 222) is still topical. Neumann points to the fact that Narratology with its interest in formal-structural characteristics of texts »has proven to be of great value in the exploration of the representation of memory« and the connection of (collective) memory and identity formation because fictional texts »have specific, genuinely literary techniques at hand to plumb the connection between memory and identity« (Neumann 2010, 333).

Erll demonstrates that the close link between remembering and narration was already crucial for Genette’s and Stanzel’s foundational works of Narratology and »it is in fictional representations of remembering that the manifold possibilities of narrative discourse best come to the fore« (Erll 2009, 213). However, it was not until postclassical Narratology, and in particular Cognitive Narratology, that this linkage was more closely addressed, focusing primarily on the biological dimensions of memory and narrative with concepts of schemes and frames (cf. ibid., 216). These concepts focus on the individual part of memory processes, but a second field concerns the question how Narratology can complement or further define concepts of Cultural Memory Studies (i. e., collective forms of remembering). According to Jeffrey Olick, literature can on the one hand depict collected memory (i. e., socially shaped individual memory) and make it observable; on the other hand, it is itself a medium of collective memory (i. e., the public discourse of the past) and shapes the knowledge content of larger social contexts (cf. Olick 1999, 337–343). Erll recognizes the importance of Narratology in showing more precisely not only what, but above all how certain historically significant events are remembered: »Different modes of remembering are closely linked to different modes of narrative representation. Changes in the form of representation may effect changes in the kind of memory we retain of the past« (Erll 2009, 220). A rhetoric of cultural memory can be further defined in terms of different modes. Her proposition has its focus on »using existent narratological categories as a toolbox for looking at texts and their relation to cultural memory« (ibid., 221). Basseler and Birke have already taken up this idea of a ›toolbox‹ in their 2005 paper, showing how literary texts mimetically represent processes of memory and which theoretical concepts are especially useful to further describe and define these phenomena. In their contribution to this issue, they update their explanations. In doing so, they emphasize an observation that also initiated this volume: despite the fact that research in the field of Memory Studies is enormous and literature plays a major role in it, narratological approaches are still few and hardly systematically represented (cf. Basseler/Birke 2022, 214). Although Erll, in her taxonomy of Literary Memory Studies, applies narratological approaches primarily to the field of »memory in literature« (Erll 2010, 288 sq.), she argues elsewhere: »Not that I think research into narrative and memory need necessarily be restricted to such forms of ›applied narratology‹. Insights into the forms and functions of memory can also trigger a reconsideration of the basic categories of structural narratology, and thus promote a more intense theoretical discussion of the issues involved« (Erll 2009, 221). Thus, the analysis of narrative structures is not only beneficial in all of the four areas of Literary Memory Studies defined by Erll, but also crucial in applying theories and concepts from other disciplines to narrative texts.

2 Literary Theory and two Prominent Concepts of Memory Studies

Perusing current approaches of literary memory research, it stands out that theories of memory from the Social and Cultural Sciences are often immediately and little systematically applied to the text without paying particular attention to its structure and literary form. This undermines the established practice in Literary Studies of a heuristic two-step consisting of textual analysis and interpretation. That these two processes cannot always be clearly distinguished from each other can be considered a consensus of literary scholarship. Nevertheless, this exclusively interpretive access to the text does not do justice to the processes of memory staged in literature (cf. Milevski/Wetenkamp 2020, 136).

In the following, we concentrate on two of the most influential and transdisciplinary used contributions from Literary and Cultural Studies to the field of Memory Studies. Our examination of Rothberg’s ›Multidirectional Memory‹ and Hirsch’s ›Postmemory‹ pursues two objectives. First, we want to show how Rothberg and Hirsch themselves work with literary texts. Second, we want to demonstrate how a close look at the text structures, i. e., by adopting a narratological perspective in Literary Memory Studies could be useful.

2.1 Multidirectional Memory

Michael Rothberg’s Multidirectional Memory (2009) had a huge impact on the understanding of memory. The study argues that our present is characterized by the presence of a wide variety of past narratives, which Rothberg tries to capture with the term ›Multidirectional Memory‹ that »considers a series of interventions through which social actors bring multiple traumatic pasts into a heterogeneous and changing post-World War II present« (Rothberg 2009, 4). Starting with the question of what happens when two (violent) histories are jointly targeted, his concept strives to move beyond two problematic issues that are particularly virulent in the political dimension of memory work: first, the notion of a zero-sum logic when it comes to resources. In his understanding, collective memory is not competitive memory, but »subject to ongoing negotiation, cross-referencing, and borrowing« (Rothberg 2009, 3). Secondly, the view that memory directly determines identity. Drawing on Confino and Fritzsche’s praxeological approach which understands memory as a symbolic representation enclosed in a social framework of action (2002, 1–22), and against the background of his own research on the Holocaust, he argues that both alterity and similarity are equally important in the act of remembering itself (Rothberg 2009, 4).

By using the example of very different objects, Rothberg explains his purposefully widened approach as »[f]ar from being situated – either physically or discursively – in any single institution or site, the archive of multidirectional memory is irreducibly transversal; it cuts across genres, national contexts, periods, and cultural traditions« (Rothberg 2009, 18). Therefore, he addresses paintings such as André Fougeron’s Atlantic Civilization (1953), essays such as W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Negro and the Warsaw Ghetto (1949), art installations such as Alan Schechner’s The Legacy of Abused Children: From Poland to Palestine (2003), films such as Chronique d’un été (1961) by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, but also literary texts like André Schwarz-Bart’s novel La Mulâtresse Solitude (1972) or Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz et après (1965).

Rothberg’s study claims to be a contribution to interdisciplinary Memory Studies. A literary scholar, Rothberg explains in detail how he deals with literary texts, as can be seen in his chapter Anachronistic Aesthetics: André Schwarz-Bart and Caryl Phillips on the Ruins of Memory. Instead of placing the literary text centrally, as scholars in Literary Studies usually do, Rothberg reads it as part of the practice of Multidirectional Memory whose performing subject is the author. Using the example of Schwarz-Bart, he explains that the first indication of multidirectionality comes from the text: in La Mulâtresse Solitude, the location of the last battle of the rebellion that took place in Danglemont plantation on Guadeloupe is described with a comparison to the Warsaw Ghetto (Schwarz-Bart 1972, 156). Rothberg then goes on to explain that the central question, »What does it mean to write and remember from the site of a ruin?« is crucial for Memory Studies as well as for Holocaust and Postcolonial Literature Studies. This writing and remembering in question is then completely tied to the author. Schwarz-Bart, a »French Jew with Polish Origin« (Rothberg 2009, 135), who wrote in 1959 Le Dernier des Justes, which was awarded the Prix Goncourt, and who started some years later to write a »fictional history of blacks and Jews in diaspora« with his Guadeloupean wife, which they never finished. La Mulâtresse Solitude was a part of it.

Rothberg’s »reading seeks to move beyond […] even the text itself into a para- and intertextual space of multidirectional memory«; his interest lies in explaining »the turn Schwarz-Bart takes toward the history and culture of the African diaspora« (2009, 139). For this, he combines concrete text interpretations with the analysis of different paratexts such as interviews and reviews. In a short examination of the beginning and end of Le Dernier des Justes, he comes to statements about Schwarz-Bart’s attitude towards the Holocaust and Jewish history, which he then considers in a larger intertextual setting. Rothberg obviously draws on a broad poststructuralist concept of intertextuality (cf. Kristeva 1972; Lachmann 1985). In his opinion, multidirectionality stems from the parallel reading of the texts, whose dates of origin are as insignificant as the author’s actual knowledge of these intertexts.[3] Rothberg concludes that »the memory of slavery unlocks Jewish memory (and futurity) and makes possible an aesthetic project of multidirectional remembrance« (Rothberg 2009, 144).

Even though Rothberg’s approach has led to a conceptual shift in Memory Studies and resulted in a more inclusive and dialogic perspective on different memory cultures and contents, he is aware that addressing two histories of violence together does not yet lead compellingly to Multidirectional Memory (Rothberg 2013, 90). Nevertheless, it is this moment of dialogue that interests literary scholars in particular with regard to their objects of study. Most studies which aim to work out this dialogicity are interested in it on an intratextual level. Rothberg’s approach to investigate the productive co-memoration of heterogeneous histories of violence is thus mostly assigned to the field of memory in literature, as explained above following Erll, but in most instances without paying attention to the structures of the narrative. In our own study of Nino Haratischwili’s Das Achte Leben (für Brilka) we committed ourselves to the two-step of analysis and interpretation and used narratological instruments to grasp dialogical memory processes (cf. Milevski/Wetenkamp 2020). We tied the potential of Multidirectional Memory back to two interacting characters, Kitty and Fred, who both recognize themselves in the trauma of the other; Kitty is a survivor of the Soviet regime of violence, while Fred was imprisoned in the concentration camps Theresienstadt and Mauthausen. Based on the assumption that even literarily modeled remembering is staged as a cognitive process by characters as well as narrative instances, we discussed some positions of classical narratology for our analytical approach. In general, thought language is analyzed analogously to spoken language, giving the impression that thought is also linear, linguistically realized, and coherent (cf. Köppe/Kindt 2014, 199–208; Martínez/Scheffel 2012, 49–66). Under the term ›distance‹, for example, Genette negotiates the presentation of thought as ›thought language‹ parallel to the presentation of ›spoken language‹, which both are situated on a spectrum between narrative and dramatic mood (Genette 1998, 115–132). But it is not only the linguistic staging of thought that evokes distance or establishes proximity, as Köppe and Kindt have shown (2014, 200). Scholars like Dorrit Cohn (1978), Ann Banfield (1982), Monika Fludernik (1993, 1996) digress the strict differentiation of thought and speech and Brian McHale states that even a fictive consciousness is »much more ubiquitous and variegated than speech and is not adequately captured by speech-based models of interior discourse« (McHale 2014). This was also shown by the study of Alan Palmer (2004), which assumes that thinking, even in literature, is always »engaged, social interaction« (2002, 32) that functions multidirectional. For Palmer, memories are states of consciousness that his analytical grid, the »main consciousness frame« (2004, 205), is able to grasp in relation to the thought processes of other figures.

Our analysis shows where Kitty and Fred recognize themselves in each other’s trauma, but also where the potential of multidirectional remembering cannot be realized (cf. Milevski/Wetenkamp 2020, 152). This is precisely where the potential for interdisciplinary Memory Studies lies as the question of how exactly such an inclusive and dialogical remembering takes shape in individuals, how individual and collective remembering are linked, is the subject of ongoing debate. The characteristic of memory discourses, of being tied back to the negotiation of social discourses, means that individual memories are always also part of a collective culture of memory. If one wants to make statements about social processes, one must also ask about the hinge between the individual and the collective (cf. Schult 2020, 48). Although the respective traumas of the characters are each individual and unique, they stand for similar experiences of other affected persons and are also formulated in the memory process as an inner dialogue both with concrete persons and in a confrontation with socially circulating norms and memory discourses (cf. Milevski/Wetenkamp 2020, 138 sq.). A detailed analysis of the text structures using approaches from Classical as well as Cognitive Narratology could show how the text on the one hand allows different memories to co-exist, but on the other hand also exhibits the limits of dialogicity in trauma. As an exemplary case, it was possible to show what added value the connection of Memory Studies with Narratology can have – and what possibilities it opens for the overall project of Memory Studies when it comes to investigating hinges between the individual and the collective in cultural artifacts of memory.

2.2 Postmemory

The fact that memories and remembrance mostly occur in medialized and language-based form, is also important for Marianne Hirsch’s concept of Postmemory that resonated immensely in Literary and Cultural Studies in recent years. For her, with regard to the diminishing number of surviving witnesses to the Holocaust and the shift from communicative to cultural memory, the question of memory arises anew: »What do we owe the victims? How can we best carry their stories forward, without appropriating them, without unduly calling attention to ourselves, and without, in turn, having our own stories displaced by them? How are we implicated in the aftermath of crimes we did not ourselves witness?« (Hirsch 2012, 2) Postmemory as a cross-generational reconstructive memory does not refer to the experience of being passively exposed to a traumatic past, but rather to the need of the second or third generation to actively pursue and thus preserve the past of their parents or grandparents. Postmemory thereby mixes the inherited with the researched. Hirsch uses the term »Postmemorial work« (ibid., 33) to emphasize the processual nature of this practice and foregrounds its creative potential: »Postmemory’s connection to the past is thus actually mediated not by recall but by imaginative investment, projection, and creation« (ibid., 5).

There are various concepts within the field of Memory Studies that have referred to the phenomenon of transgenerational memory before Hirsch’s Postmemory: Nicolas Abraham’s and Maria Torok’s ›phantom‹ (1978; Abraham 1991) or Haydée Faimberg’s ›telescoping of generations‹ (2005), which both originate in psychoanalysis; furthermore Ellen Fine’s ›absent memory‹ (1988), Alison Landsberg’s ›prosthetic memory‹ (2004), James Young’s ›received history‹ (1997), and Gabriele Schwab’s ›haunting legacy‹ (2010). However, what sets Hirsch’s Postmemory apart from all the other concepts is that it particularly highlights the imaginative and creative power of Postmemory which makes it so intriguing for Literary Studies. The above-mentioned processes of imaginative investment, projection, and creation are vital for fictional narratives and thus easily connectable to Literary Theory. Hirsch herself mostly bases her observations on photographs that serve as »›points of memory‹ – points of intersection between past and present, memory and postmemory, personal remembrance and cultural recall« (Hirsch 2012, 61). These ›points of memory‹ connect the generations, the experiencers with their descendants. When it comes to literature, these points of memory are not expressed in the language of the literary text, but rather in visual figurations of trauma and transmission (such as marks, wounds, and tattoos) that the text displays (cf. ibid., 80). She proves this thesis with an analysis of Tony Morrison’s novel Beloved, in which the trauma of slavery manifests itself on the plot level as a scar on the protagonist’s body (cf. ibid., 81). Hirsch’s approach to literary texts focuses primarily on the story level. In the case of Beloved, Hirsch pursues the question of how trauma is passed on from mother to daughter. Apart from Morrison’s text, most literary examples Hirsch refers to in her study have a strong autobiographical component. These texts can be regarded as a result and product of postmemorial work. Her question »What aesthetic and institutional structures, what tropes, best mediate the psychology of postmemory« (Hirsch 2008, 107) invited many literary scholars (mostly in German Studies) to apply and further develop as well as to criticize the concept.

In Literary Studies Hirsch’s concept is used as a »descriptive category and an analytical tool to analyze texts that communicate traumatic experiences in a transgenerational context« (Anastasiadis 2012, 6). But in many studies, we encounter the same lack of the heuristic two-step of textual analysis and interpretation mentioned above. Most often the concept is immediately applied to the text without paying particular attention to its structure.[4] Literary characters are thereby held as representatives for a particular culture or society, and literary texts assume the status of socio-political diagnoses (cf. O’Donoghue 2018). But this equation neglects the specificity of fiction and its fictional privileges. A narratological perspective can be very helpful to shed some light on the concept of Postmemory and its interplay with literature. Already Stanzel clarifies that first-person narratives consist of a mixture of »[r]eproductive memory and productive imagination« (Stanzel 1984, 215). The mixture of reproduction and production is also a key factor of Hirsch’s concept.

Initial studies with a specifically narratological focus have identified the following characteristics for literary staging of a postmemorial discourse and a postmemorial narrative position. First, in most texts a homodiegetic narrator functions as the main narrative instance and agent of Postmemory (cf. Anastasiadis 2012, 12). However, the narrative of the homodiegetic narrator is supplemented in a multi-perspectival manner by second-degree narrators, conversational reports, and letters or other documents that bear witness to the events of the past. The boundary between the different narrative voices is often not clear-cut. A close narratological look can make this dissolution of boundaries comprehensible. On a text-structural level, it becomes clear how memory is also formed between generations, and how facts are merged with fiction.

A postmemorial narrative position demands at least two different levels of time and a doubling of perspectives, since the narrated is emotionally experienced by two instances (cf. Jandl 2020, 153). In their discussion of narratological memory research in this volume, Basseler and Birke highlight the simultaneous presence of the perspectives of a narrating-I and an experiencing-I as a characteristic of literary texts that thematize and stage memory (cf. Basseler/Birke 2022, 228). The postmemorial narrative position is characterized by a coincidence of the temporal levels of the experiencing and narrating-I. Basselers and Birke’s solution to extend the existing narratological categories of narrating-I and experiencing-I by a remembered-I is thus helpful. Furthermore, the analysis of the postmemorial narrative position can make visible how memory appropriation and trauma are transferred into a coherent narrative.[5] Characteristics of traumatic memory such as their contradictory and fragmented nature (cf. Anastasiadis 2012, 1) are thereby transformed into something new. Many texts make this transformation visible and are characterized by high self-reflexivity of narration and remembering; they problematize the voids of the memory process, the struggle for words, the uncertainty about the experiences in the past, and the emotional chaos of the narrator.

As our examination of Rothberg’s ›Multidirectional Memory‹ and Hirsch’s ›Postmemory‹ shows, Narratology can further define concepts or theories from other disciplines. The contributions in this issue, which are briefly introduced below, illustrate how Narratology and other Literary Theories can valuably complement the field of Memory Studies.

3 Overview of the Articles in this Volume

The articles collected in this volume treat the utility of different narratological categories for textual analysis of memory literature or discuss entire methodologies against the backdrop of memory theory analyses. As test cases they examine literary examples from very different time-periods and cultural contexts.

The article by Dorothee Birke and Michael Basseler, Mimesis of Remembering, belongs to the field of ›memory in literature‹ and elaborates analysis approaches for texts that exhibit the so called ›mimesis of remembering‹, i. e. the direct representing or staging of remembering. As mentioned above, it offers a toolbox using both Narratology and interdisciplinary Memory Studies. Besides introducing various basic aspects of such a ›mnestic narration‹ – representation of time and space, narrative mediation and focalization, and questions of narrative unreliability –, the article discusses not only how these aspects can be designed and combined in ways that serve to highlight a text’s mnestic qualities, but also shows that only a historical and cultural contextualization can provide information about how the staging of memory functions in each case.

Manuel Mühlbacher’s essay, Plotting Memory. What Are We Made to Remember When We Read Narrative Texts?, belongs to the ›ars memoriae‹, as it is dedicated to the question of what mnemic accomplishments readers have to summon up in order to comprehend a narrative plot. To answer this question, a theory of emplotted memory is developed, which reads narratives as a sequence of events that is not only recalled in the text, but also in the reader’s memory. Exemplary analyses of the narrative structures of Yvain ou le chevalier au lion by Chrétien de Troyes (c. 1177–1181), Rodríguez de Montalvo’s Amadís de Gaula (1508), and Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795/1796) are used to apply this theory and to show, among other things, that different narrative structures also require different ways of remembering.

In accordance with Erll’s differentiation between ›memory of literature‹ and ›memory in literature‹ Claudia Mueller-Greene in her essay The Concept of Liminality as a Theoretical Tool in Literary Memory Studies: Liminal Aspects of Memory in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children proposes two different perspectives on liminality: the mnemonic liminality of literature and the mnemonic liminality in literature. The article takes a close look at the specificity of liminality, the ambiguity, uncertainty, and chaos it involves, and aims to examine the applicability of the concept for Literary Memory Studies. Her case study of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children (1981) focusses on narrative devices such as metaphors and allegories, magic realism, intertextuality, unreliable narration, and the semanticization of space and objects as effective techniques to stage and reflect liminal aspects of memory in literary texts.

In the article Inherited Revolution, Narratives in transgenerational memory transfer Ana de Almeida and Christian Wimplinger look at narratives of collectively experienced processes of emancipation and how revolutions as inherently violent processes can be remembered by the descendants. Referring to Rodolfo Usigli’s Ensayo de un crimen (1944) and Heinrich Heine’s Ludwig Börne: A Memorial (1840) they tie together Hirsch’s Postmemory, Adamczak’s reading of ›desire‹ as fetish in post-revolutionary Soviet Russia, and Boym’s work on ›nostalgia‹, considering the figures of cycle, linear progression, iteration, disruption, and irreversibility as the time modes of revolution.

Monika Albrecht’s article Shared Histories in Multiethnic Societies: Literature as a Critical Corrective of Cultural Memory Studies deals with ›memory in literature‹ as it proposes a new approach to transnational memory, one that focusses on actual interconnections and references between countries and starting points of a common history. She contrasts Rothberg’s concept of Multidirectional Memory, which is based on mental links and similarities between events, with an approach that concentrates on the actual historical links between specific countries. Taking Orkun Ertener’s novel Lebt (2014) as a case study, Albrecht shows how literary texts cast entanglements on both the individual level and the level of history. She argues that Erteners’s text brings to the fore the transnationally interwoven stories of people with and without a migrant background and provides a transnational expansion of memory discourses on German, Greek, Jewish, and Turkish/Ottoman history. Albrecht proposes a novel perspective that should be the basis for future theory building, a perspective that takes into account the specific potential of literature. She claims that theories of memory in the field of Literary Studies should not be developed with a view from ›outside‹, but intrinsically from literature itself.


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Published Online: 2022-09-09
Published in Print: 2022-08-30

© 2022 bei den Autoren, publiziert von De Gruyter.

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