‘The Invention of Tradition’, ‘The Way We Never Were’, ‘Phantoms of Remembrance’, ‘History as an Art of Memory’, ‘Theatres of Memory’, ‘Memories in the Making’: these few titles taken from the vast bibliography associated with the study of social memory display what has become almost a commonplace in much recent thinking: that social memory is the work of a perpetual process of symbolic construction. Hence memory necessarily involves techniques and energies associated with illusion, storytelling, spectacle, fabrication, and art. The rhetorical frisson and critical acuity of these titles arises from the juxtaposition of apparently incommensurate domains. A faculty as seemingly referential as memory, fundamental to the relation between reality and identity, becomes entangled, if not tainted, with the realm of fabulation, phantasmagoria, and artifice: a realm traditionally associated with the role of the imagination in individual and social life, and with cultural processes of fictionalization that are today systemically concentrated in the mass media.
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