Too Much of a Good Thing? Surplus Memory, Form, Fiction
Is there such thing as too much memory? According to nineteenth-century French psychologists, there is, which is how they coined the term “hypermnesia,” or “the disease of too much memory” (Michael Roth). As Michael Roth has usefully charted, a “typical” or normal” memory, then, would be one that brings order, allowing for a clear link between the past and present that consequently allows for “possible futures.” In contrast, surplus memory becomes an “agent of disorder” that overwhelms the present. If, then, there seems to be an amount of memory that signals a certain “healthy” relationship with the past and future, and alternatively there are cases of surplus memory that perhaps complicate this fragile temporality, then how do we think through the work a text does in its representation of past, present, and future?
In this panel, we wish to explore this idea of surplus memory in literary texts. We particularly welcome papers that grapple with how a text contends with a past that is excessive, or that “overwhelms” the present. Does the past provide protection or safety? Does the movement backward cause more damage? Does it seek to create coherence? Does it create fragmentation? Does it shape form, plot, or outcome of the texts? What are the expressions of racial, gendered, embodied memory that can be construed as a “disease of too much memory”? These are only a few questions, though we welcome engagement with this idea of hypermnesia broadly.