Review of: How Modernity Forgets
My friend Paul Connerton, who has died aged 79, was a cultural theorist internationally recognised for his work on social memory. He managed to succeed in his academic work despite being independent of any university and having limited financial means.
In a state scholarship took him from Chesterfield grammar school for boys to Jesus College, Oxford, to study history. In , graduating again with another first, he resumed his research and from to was an unofficial fellow of Caius.
UIC Bookstore - HOW MODERNITY FORGETS (P)
By then he was launched on what became his career, or vocation, as a private scholar without private means. He would have been a brilliant teacher of graduate students: he shone in research seminars and international conferences, where his learning and fluency made him a formidable debater.
But he was not made for teaching less able undergraduates, let alone for administration, and his only attempt at a conventional academic career as a lecturer ended after a few months with a bout of the rheumatoid arthritis that filled much of his life with pain. He subsisted thereafter on invalidity benefit, supported by his sister, Clare Campbell, and by loyal friends, mainly in Cambridge.
It takes ideas from Francis Yates classic work, The Art of Memory, which viewed memory as being dependent on stability, and argues that today's world is full of change, making 'forgetting' characteristic of contemporary society. We live our lives at great speed; cities have become so enormous that they are unmemorable; consumerism has become disconnected from the labour process; urban architecture has a short life-span; and social relationships are less clearly defined - all of which has eroded the foundations on which we build and share our memories.
Providing a profound insight into the effects of modern society, this book is a must-read for anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers, as well as anyone interested in social theory and the contemporary western world. Temporalities of forgetting.
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Topographies of forgetting.