The Memory Network is a multi-disciplinary enterprise that brings together researchers, authors and artists, and organisations to provoke and fuel original thinking about memory in the twenty-first century. It is led by the University of Roehampton and Durham University and is funded by the AHRC, with support from the Wellcome Trust.
Writers and critics working in the arts and humanities are now seriously engaging with new critical perspectives offered by biosciences, psychology, and computer science to explore individual and collective memory in literary narratives, while scientists acknowledge the benefits of engaging with creative ideas and the ethical and hermeneutic perspectives offered through fictional explorations and humanities disciplines. The Memory Network aims to foster a profound and sustained engagement with these emerging models of memory and the ways in which they might generate or illuminate literary production. It moves away from existing, postmodern ways of thinking about memory which focus on historical amnesia, memorialisation, trauma and nostalgia. Instead of these socio-cultural and therapeutic narratives, the Network is interested in mobilising the transformative and dynamic potential of memory, consciousness and cognition as a subject of literary-scientific enquiry.
The Memory Network addresses new and urgent questions about our global future, in which memory, paradoxically, plays a vital part. In an increasingly chaotic world made unpredictable by the casino economy, how can we harness memory as a force that can contribute to shaping a more stable, sustainable world? What is the relationship between memory and pressing ecological issues: how can we simultaneously know that climate change is likely to be the end of mankind and at the same time endlessly forget our knowledge of this seemingly inescapable fate? In the face of an aging population, can there be a role for literature in alleviating the consequences of dementia: can connections be made between the structures of verbal and visual memory and the re-reading of childhood literature? How do new technologies and social media allow or force people to shape future memories of themselves? Are all-pervasive technologies in our contemporary world taking over cognitive processes: do GPS-systems reduce our brain’s navigational skills? Does Google change human nature because our need to remember has become redundant? Should literary critics care that Neuroscience has studied Marcel Proust’s iconic madeleine-episode in À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, and shown that the memories of Combray that flood back to him when he eats the cake dipped in tea are not completely involuntary, but rather the result of ‘metonymic expansion’ that also draws on voluntary memory?
In this new context, the Memory Network aims to map, generate and promote emerging ideas about memory, and explore ways in which new models might illuminate art and literature. Members of the Memory Network interact with each other and the wider public audience through Events, an online series of Exchanges, and collaborative publications. Currently, core members are working in the fields of English Literature, Philosophy of Science, Computer Science, Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology, Neurolinguistics, Film Studies, Anthropology, and History. Researchers, writers and artists interested in joining the Network’s activities are warmly invited to contact us, or to send an enquiry.
The Memory Network Team
Principal Investigator: Dr Sebastian Groes, The University of Roehampton
Co-Investigator: Professor Patricia Waugh, Durham University
Co-Organiser: Dr Alison Waller, The University of Roehampton
Events Coordinator: Dr Heather Yeung
Network Administrator: Nicholas Lavery, The University of Roehampton