Frye on memory from the notebooks, courtesy of Bob Denham’s Northrop Frye Unbuttoned:

The memory selects, rejects, rearranges, condenses and displaces. In short it mythicizes our history. (LN, 1:38)

But perhaps this is what memory is for, to bring to life past moments. If so, the memory, like the sensory apparatus, is selective & exclusive. Screen memory is the only memory. Nietsczhe says that when memory says “I did that” & pride says, “I didn’t,” the memory gives way. . . But memory is the key to identity. And perhaps (as Coleridge once suggested) the key to resurrection too. (NB 11f.158)

My memory of past experiences becomes more intense all the time, yet much of it never happened, happened otherwise in a different sequence, or with a very different emotional harmonization. (It’s this last that makes the present so much less real than the past: as in art, an imaginative recreation lifts them clear of the dithering of time.) I think the real memory is the habit-energy that is, perhaps, our real selves, that is, perhaps the only thing we could take into another world. (NB 21.605)

(Photo: Rob Howard)

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One thought on “Memory

  1. Martin

    Didn’t Mark Twain say that his memory improved with age to the point that he, in his later years, could remember even things that had never happened.


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