Chateaubriand, Selfhood and Memory
DOI link for Chateaubriand, Selfhood and Memory
Chateaubriand, Selfhood and Memory book
We were still in the old house (but already no longer in the old old house), when my daughter, Lauren, who must have been about seven or eight years old, said, ‘Isn’t that the way we used to do things?’ I don’t remember what she was referring to, maybe the use of an old screwdriver or handsaw, at a time when we were generally working with power tools, or a typewriter, but I was struck by her attentiveness to ‘what once was, but is no longer’. I have been to enough seminars on memory with psychologists and neuroscientists to know how many scholars assume that the distinction between ‘was’ and ‘is’ is constituted in language templates anchored in the structure of the brain. Yet what I heard was evidence that the sense of time passing and even a nostalgic sentimentality about that passage was learned, perhaps sometime between the move from the old old house to the old house. In other words, I leaned toward the idea that the learning of language does much to create the structures of cognition so that different languages, tenses and attentions work themselves out to elaborate different kinds of structure, which consequently cannot be regarded as anthropological constants. In my view, much of the amplitude of tense, duration, rupture and the work of memory that attends to them are learned in and vulnerable to culture.