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From Medieval Mnemonics to a Social Construction of Memory - page 17 / 23

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Packard, Chen / MEMORY, MORALITY, AND CONSCIOUSNESS

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breakdown in the process (Rubin, 1979, pp. 44-90). Here the Church itself was a perfected enclave in which members were saved from the sinful outside world. Dualistic conceptualizations of good and evil, and of power and powerlessness, were constructed within the Church, the community, and the family, not as part of a totality incorporating the state, as an extension of nature, or as part of a plural- ity of social groupings. In religious settings that required perpetual self-control and constant scrutiny, there was little room for self-reflection or self-knowledge in the medieval conception of the words, for control (of oneself and by others) and rejection of the greater world and all its possibilities took precedence in Protestant sects. To engage in medieval rhetorical discourse about the nature of self-knowledge would have been blasphemous and dangerous because it would have caused doubt and guilt in the mind of the repentant. Protestants and Puri- tans engaged in torturous, ongoing self-examinations of their souls in an attempt to perpetually purify themselves of their sins and to have personal contact with God to serve his purpose pragmatically through correct action (Rubin, 1979, p. 8). One might wonder if the tortured survivors of the Inquisition, such as the Cathari or “Pure Ones,” might have been converts to these sects in the New World. Jon Butler (1990) offered provocative and detailed analysis about the role of Christianity in early American society, politics, and capitalism (includ- ing slavery). American society has had the unusual capacity to ignore, as well as embrace, religion while also tolerating (and sometimes not) the development of an array of creative and original religious sects.

Among the changes brought by the Reformation was the reduction of mem- ory practices. Books were plentiful and portable, so lessons and scripture did not have to be memorized. Pedagogy changed as educational institutions, busy civi- lizing urban youth and preparing future workers, could not afford to teach in an intimate, rhetorical question-answer dialogue between teacher and student as had been practiced in the medieval universities. Rather than learning to remem- ber a verbal, changing dialogue (one not written and not repeated) that like a mental chess match, required memoria and mnemonics, students of modern educational institutions had little need for medieval contemplation on nature and dialectics. Newly emigrated Americans built new cities with names such as Rome, Ithaca, Syracuse, and Utica and in this pragmatic way, celebrated ances- tral giants of the Old World by reconstructing them to fulfill the insecure needs of the New World.

DURKHEIM AND SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS, HALBWACHS AND THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF MEMORY

Emile Durkheim, like his teacher Comte, attributed a hierarchy to the human world. Durkheim devoted a lifetime to investigating categories of “social facts” and establishing sociology as a science. He sought to find the division of the sacred and profane in a totalized society, arguing that consciousness was social

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