APPLYING THEORIES OF MEMORY TO LITERARY REMINISCENCE: PROUST AND NABOKOV
Krauss, I.K., Clarion University of Pennsylvania, USA
Autobiographical novels, autobiographies, and memoirs are meant to lead the reader into the memories of the author and sometimes, if the reader is fortunate, to basic truths about the human condition. But how do the authors arrive at their memories? According to Vladimir Nabokov, in his frequently revised autobiography Speak Memory, repeated, deliberate, and very effortful attempts to elicit the past are required. Revisions of memory, guided by one's own efforts as well as by conflicting memories of others present at the events, are required. Even then, there are lapses and reconstructions. The past can only be estimated, not regenerated or reliably confirmed. Marcel Proust, in dramatic contrast, trusted the memories that arose unbidden, bursting forth in response to some taste or aroma that swept across the consciousness, unleashing emotions and images that were deeply felt even before being identified. While he acknowledged in his massive autobiographical novel, Remembrance of Things Past, that memories needed to be revisited many times for accuracy and meaning, he contended that what emerged was less trustworthy than the original flash of recollection. These theories written about so expressively by Nabokov and Proust decades ago are analogous to explicit and implicit theories of memory as discussed in the current memory literature (Eysenck, 1993; Graf & Schachter, 1985; Loftus, 1996). In this presentation, I will relate contemporary theories of memory to those underlying the autobiographical works of Nabokov and Proust.