PAMLA 2016: Drinking from the River of Mnemosyne: Memoir, Truth, and Rhetoric
Drinking from the River of Mnemosyne: Memoir, Truth, and Rhetoric
The modern concept of the memoir has a complex relationship with traditions of art, history, memory, rhetoric, and even ethics. Memoir is usually distinguished from autobiography by its inclusion of reflection—the examination of a life that borrows techniques from fiction to render its story interesting. Generically, it is often classified as ‘Creative Non-fiction,” a categorization that seems unwilling to confront the divide between fiction and non-fiction. That reluctance, however, may recall a more classical interpretation of truth, fiction, memory, and history.
Mnemosyne—Memory–was the mother of the nine muses. Some versions of her myth include a river also named Mnemosyne, a counterpart to Lethe, which wiped memories from souls of the dead, while Mnemosyne sharpened memories from their lives on earth. Allegorically, then, all art—including history and rhetoric as well as poetry and drama–springs from memory, a conscious rejection of forgetfulness, and a search for meaning in history. This session hopes to build on some of these associations with memory, art, and the value of reflection to examine the genre of the memoir, either through specific examples or through theoretical and historical studies of the genre.
Abstracts due 6/10/16: Conference in Pasadena, CA 11/11-13/2016