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PART II Propping the subject
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Given the immense swathe of time that separates the subjects of these two chapters, the extent of the ground they share is remarkable. Both are concerned with memory ‘props’. William West discusses how, in early modern times, practitioners of artificial memory constructed vivid objects in the mind that supported a number of different memories. Stephan Feuchtwang enquires into ‘props’ of recall that aid in the remembrance and recognition of loss. Both chapters concern themselves with the relationship between subjectivity and memory – a relationship that emerges, in both cases, as interdependent and yet fragile. William West points to a breakdown, in the sixteenth century, of the belief that memory props could sustain the self. Stephan Feuchtwang, on the other hand, points to the subject’s reliance on props of recall for sustaining a sense of self, and considers the devastating impact that follows the loss of such props. Both chapters take as their primary focus works of literature. William West discusses how the faltering of memory’s support to subjectivity is registered in the poetry of John Donne and Edmund Spenser, and how the faltering of memory’s relation to national unity marks the historical writings of William Camden; Stephan Feuchtwang discusses Binjamin Wilkomirski’s ‘fictional’ Holocaust memoir, Fragments and Leon Wieseltier’s memoir concerning his father’s death, Kaddish. Both chapters, too, are concerned with memory and affect: William West points out that what made memory objects memorable was the affect with which they were charged, while Stephan Feuchtwang explores both how feelings associated with catastrophic loss may be articulated to the self through identification with unexperienced events, and the feelings in play in institutional processes of recognition-seeking.