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Title: Blessed are the forgetful : aspects of forgetting in modern European philosophy and literature
Author: Partridge, Henry Charles.
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis challenges the received idea that forgetting is simply an assault on memory. Instead of narrowly identifying forgetting with memory loss, retrieval failure, and the obliteration of the past, this thesis considers the active role of forgetting in maintaining the health of memory and the mind in general. After examining recent literary, phenomenological, and psychological accounts of forgetting, the thesis considers positive approaches to forgetting in the works of Sebald, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Benjamin, and Kant. Rather than attacking memory, Heidegger argues that forgetting actually opens up the memory of the past to remembrance. Indeed, in W. G. Sebald's novel Austerlitz it becomes plain that forgetting does not necessarily imply a loss of memory. Memories that cannot be recalled often become available through recognition. Indeed, Benjamin argues that forgetting is an essential precondition for the involuntary emergence of memory. Memories must be forgotten deep within the unconscious to be triggered independently of conscious recollection. Nietzsche also argues that forgetting is an active ability to "shut the doors and windows of consciousness" essential for maintaining the mind's receptivity to new stimuli. Forgetting limits our awareness of stimuli whose proliferation would overload the mind with redundant information. Kant, too, maintains that the capacity of the imagination to suppress is essential for maintaining the representational unity of objects necessary for intelligible experience. Clearly, an uncritical acceptance of forgetting as the enemy of memory overlooks its obvious benefits. By highlighting the positive aspects of forgetting this thesis aims to encourage a reexamination of our attitudes towards a much maligned phenomenon
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available