Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lieux d'oubli

     "What is new, at least in the modern era, is the neglect of history. Every memorial, every museum, every shorthand commemorative allusion to something from the past that should arouse in us the appropriate sentiments of respect, or regret, or sadness, or pride, is parasitic upon the presumption of historical knowledge:  not shared memory, but a shared memory of history as we learned it.  France, like other modern nations, is living off the pedagogical capital invested in its citizens in earlier decades. As Jacques and Mona Ozouf gloomily conclude in their essay on Augustine Fouillé's educational classic Le Tour de la France par deux enfants [(1877)]: 'Le Tour de la France stands as witness to that moment in French history when everything was invested in the schools....
" judge from the virtual disappearance of narrative history from the curriculum in school systems, including the American, the time may soon come when, for many citizens, large parts of their common past will constitute something more akin to lieux d'oubli, realms of forgettingor, rather, realms of ignorance, since there will have been little to forget. Teaching children, as we now do, to be critical of received versions of the past serves little purpose once there no longer is a received version."

     Tony Judt, "À la recherche du temps perdu: France and its pasts" (1998), in Reappraisals: reflections on the forgotten twentieth century (New York: The Penguin Press, 2008), 215-216 (196-218).

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