Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture / Edition 1

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Overview

Instead of compartmentalizing American experience, the technologies of mass culture make it possible for anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender to share collective memories — to assimilate as personal experience historical events through which they themselves did not live. That's the provocative argument of this book, which examines the formation and potential of privately felt public memories. Alison Landsberg argues that mass cultural forms such as cinema and television in fact contain the still-unrealized potential for a progressive politics based on empathy for the historical experiences of others. The result is a new form of public cultural memory — "prosthetic" memory — that awakens the potential in American society for increased social responsibility and political alliances that transcend the essentialism and ethnic particularism of contemporary identity politics.

Columbia University Press

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What People Are Saying

Roy Rosenzweig

Commentators have often highlighted the conservative implications of both memory (with its tendency to foster backward-looking nostalgia) and mass culture (as a tool of domination and deception). But in this bold and original book, Alison Landsberg challenges those conventional assumptions and underlines instead the possibilities for a progressive politics of memory in our mass-mediated era. Through subtle and theoretically informed readings of autobiographies, novels, films, and museum exhibits about immigration, slavery, and the Holocaust, she shows us how what she revealingly calls 'prosthetic memories' can 'produce empathy and social responsibility as well as political alliances that transcend race, class, and gender.' This is must reading for anyone who cares about how we think about the past and why it matters in the present.

Roy Rosenzweig, director, Center for History and New Media, George Mason University

Robert Burgoyne

Landsberg's Prosthetic Memory is a conceptual breakthrough. The power of mass culture to 'burn in' experiences in a physical, bodily way is here considered in terms of memory and the powerful modern desire to re-experience the past. This book is a key work for understanding modernity and mass culture.

Robert Burgoyne, Professor of Film and English, Wayne State University

Andreas Huyssen

Landsberg expands our conceptual reach and theoretical vocabulary by showing how film, television, the comics, and the new "experiential" museum implant a form of memory that is no less real for being neither organic nor natural....In a brilliant move, Landsberg uses the memory implant in Total Recall as the guiding trope to discuss prosthetic memory as produced by filmic and literary immigration narratives, by popular remembrances of slavery such as Roots, and by American Holocaust discourses in various media. As traditional forms of memory transmission are disrupted by migration, slavery, and historical trauma, Landsberg demonstrates how the mass media play a significant role in creating non-traditional, fluid and non-essentialist forms of identity and public memory. She successfully traces the transformations of American remembrance as media effect.

Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University

Roy Rosenzweig
Commentators have often highlighted the conservative implications of both memory (with its tendency to foster backward-looking nostalgia) and mass culture (as a tool of domination and deception). But in this bold and original book, Alison Landsberg challenges those conventional assumptions and underlines instead the possibilities for a progressive politics of memory in our mass-mediated era. Through subtle and theoretically informed readings of autobiographies, novels, films, and museum exhibits about immigration, slavery, and the Holocaust, she shows us how what she revealingly calls 'prosthetic memories' can 'produce empathy and social responsibility as well as political alliances that transcend race, class, and gender.' This is must reading for anyone who cares about how we think about the past and why it matters in the present.
Robert Burgoyne
Landsberg's Prosthetic Memory is a conceptual breakthrough. The power of mass culture to 'burn in' experiences in a physical, bodily way is here considered in terms of memory and the powerful modern desire to re-experience the past. This book is a key work for understanding modernity and mass culture.
Andreas Huyssen
Landsberg expands our conceptual reach and theoretical vocabulary by showing how film, television, the comics, and the new "experiential" museum implant a form of memory that is no less real for being neither organic nor natural....In a brilliant move, Landsberg uses the memory implant in Total Recall as the guiding trope to discuss prosthetic memory as produced by filmic and literary immigration narratives, by popular remembrances of slavery such as Roots, and by American Holocaust discourses in various media. As traditional forms of memory transmission are disrupted by migration, slavery, and historical trauma, Landsberg demonstrates how the mass media play a significant role in creating non-traditional, fluid and non-essentialist forms of identity and public memory. She successfully traces the transformations of American remembrance as media effect.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231129275
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 4/7/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 840,041
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Landsberg is assistant professor of American cultural history at George Mason University. She lives in Arlington, Virginia.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction:Memory, Modernity, Mass CultureChapter One:Prosthetic MemoryChapter Two:The Prosthetic Imagination: Immigration Narratives and the 'Melting Down' of DifferenceChapter Three: Remembering Slavery: Childhood, Desire, and the Interpellative Power of the PastChapter Four:America, the Holocaust, and the Mass Culture of Memory: The 'Object' of RememberingEpilogue:Towards a Radical Practice of Memory

Columbia University Press

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