Immediate Family: On the Consolation, Embellishment, and Distortion of Memory

Journal of Speculative Philosophy 33 (2):311-323 (2019)
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ABSTRACT I advance two claims about memory. The first is that memory itself is best conceived as consisting of scenes, which thus provide the raw material for the stories that we can tell about the past. The second is that these narratives can be revised in the light of new possibilities for redescription. In support of these claims, I examine the photographer Sally Mann's stunning 1992 series entitled “Immediate Family.” By appealing to Ian Hacking's account of how, in the latter part of the twentieth century, multiple personality became “a culturally sanctioned way of expressing distress,” I argue that both the condemnation of Mann's work and the explosion in diagnoses of multiple personality were ultimately rooted in the then-popular belief that memories of childhood abuse determined adult character.



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