Memory and Culture
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss memory. At the start of the twentieth century Freud put memory at the centre of our psychology, and as the century has worn on what a nation remembers and what it should try to forget has become one of the binding political questions that modern societies face. As every second passes, humanity has a moment more to remember, and perhaps this fact alone goes a long way to explaining the ever changing role of memory, both in the mind of individuals and at the heart of the body politic. Memory, what to remember and when to forget, has personal and national implications. Whether we look to Chile, South Africa, Germany or Northern Ireland, these are all societies where the issue of memory is at the centre of the dilemmas and challenges they face. And in the mind of the individual too - as ever more forms of information crowd for space in our minds, and the image from someone else’s photograph can be more enduring than our own first hand experience of an event, can memory itself forever remain unchanged in its role within our psychology? Have our ways of remembering changed? Not in the sense neuro-biologists would explore the subject, but in its cultural and collective, as well as its individual, sense. “Memory is decidedly in fashion” writes Dr Nancy Wood, “whether attention is focused on the so-called return of repressed memories of the abused individual, or on the black holes in a nation’s recollection of its past. The topic of memory has become a compelling preoccupation”. With Professor Malcolm Bowie, Marshall Foch Professor of French Literature at Oxford University and Director of Oxford’s European Humanities Research Centre; Dr Nancy Wood, Chair of Media Studies, University of Sussex and author of Vectors of Memory.