Instruments for and against memory

“Echoes in the bone refer to not only to a history of forgetting but to a history of empowering the living through the performance of memory.” —Joseph Roach, “Echoes in the Bone”

I felt my most profound stirring at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem when I entered the Children’s Memorial. Continue reading “Instruments for and against memory”

Art and Empowerment: The Performance of Memory Through Artistic Expression

Last semester, I went to the event Professor McCoy and Steve Prince organized on Main Street, where students, faculty, and community members alike were invited to create woodblock prints that were then arranged around one that Prince had created. The focus of the piece was trauma and healing, inspired by the trials and tribulations of Emmeline the bear, who was run into by cars multiple times. As such, I immediately recognized Prince’s art style when confronted with it in class in the piece Katrina’s Veil: Stand at Gretna Bridge, pictured belowPrince Katrina's Veil Stand at the Gretna Bridge .jpgImage Credit

Prince’s work deals with remembrance: in the case of his project at Geneseo, remembering trauma and moving on from it, and in his series done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, remembering and bearing witness to the atrocities caused by the hurricane, but also by those in power that we are supposed to trust, namely the police and the government.

This brings me to the quote from Roach’s “Echoes in the Bone” that has so vexed and fascinated the class: “Echoes in the bone refer not only to a history of forgetting but to a strategy of empowering the living through the performance of memory” (34). What does it mean to “empower the living?” More importantly, how can we both forget and remember? Continue reading “Art and Empowerment: The Performance of Memory Through Artistic Expression”

Is it Possible to Remember and Forget all at Once?

“To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” – Elie Wiesel

For my first blog post (I’m shocked but also pleased with myself that I’m doing this now and not later), I’d like to delve further into the discussion we were having on Monday, in regards to memory and forgetting because it really sparked my interest. But first- Catherine already so-brilliantly tackled this subject in her blog post that you can (and should) check out here. I would like to further expand on this.

Continue reading “Is it Possible to Remember and Forget all at Once?”

Linear Memory and How Natural Disasters Can Be Manipulated.

During our last class discussion, we focused on an excerpt from Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, which discusses the idea of memory linearity and how memory operates as more than a way of remembering events and information. The brain’s function of memory is incredibly complex and, in literature, can be manipulated into operating as a tool that engages the reader in the events of a narrative. The end of the first paragraph states that memory, “operates as an alteration between retrospection and anticipation that is itself, for better or worse, a work of art.” This statement rouses my interest because of the two main components mentioned: retrospection and anticipation. For example, in the third person omniscient point of view of a story, the narrator is made aware of all thoughts, actions, and feelings of a character; he/she view the story as if they are looking through the eyes of God. We, the reader, are made aware of all retrospection in such a story because we are given the appropriate information to infer on the anticipated events as we continue reading. Memory is simply another tool that allows the third person omniscient to operate; however, when applying this idea to subjects of focus in class, the function of a person’s memory can become altered depending on the circumstances.


During life-threatening catastrophes, such as the one suffered by residents of New Orleans as a result of hurricane Katrina, the idea of life and death makes its way into the minds of those affected. The presence of catastrophes creates turning points in people’s lives that allow them to categorize their decisions into two groups: “before and after.” The actions up until the point of havoc are now actions that happened “before.” The actions/thoughts a person continues to make after a major event, for purely survival purposes, are now placed into the “after” category; the anticipated events in a person’s life. The decisions made after a tragedy are influenced by the capacity people have to offer help to themselves and to others; the will to survive and help others in time of need is subconsciously based on one’s memory. To aid in the understanding of why people act this way, the abstract of the book “The Memory of Catastrophe” can be viewed here.


One example of memory affecting the way people make decisions post-tragedy comes from Solnit and Snedeker’s “Snakes and Ladders” chapter, where the story of Donnell Herrington’s heroism is cut short by two bullets. Refusing to evacuate the city, Herrington stayed back and rescued over 100 stranded civilians using a small boat. After finishing, he proceeded for Algiers with hopes to leave the city via the Coast Guard. He was shot twice among arriving in Algiers by a vigilante who had previously been shouting racially-charged threats at him. Katrina was not the cause for this hate-crime, but it was the platform that allowed the vigilante to be reminded of their disdain for African-Americans; and it were these memories that became unlocked as a result of the lawless land created by Katrina. The events brought forth by Katrina allowed for the vigilante to retrospectively focus on his life before the circumstances, make a life or death decision by arming himself (no concealed-carry permit), and anticipate the lives he would be taking as a result of this tragic, new platform.