Memory in the Future Tense

Professor Mark Currie (Queen Mary) presents his paper, ‘Memory in the Future Tense’ at the Future of Memory Symposium on the 30th October 2011.

Narrative is often thought of as one method by which we recapitulate past experience, and we think of its default tense structures as retrospective. This paper advances a claim that narrative temporality operates according to a tense structure more closely related to the future perfect, the tense that refers to something that lies ahead and yet which is already complete. There is a hint of the impossible in the future perfect. It seems to ascribe to the future the one property that it cannot possess. The modelling of time in narrative, it is argued, is centred on this impossibility, of a future that has already taken place, and the temporality that it generates tells us something about how we use stories to reconcile that we expect with what we experience.

Written by Nick