In this colloquium, Avril Tynan will first present a short paper introducing the theoretical aims of her project on overinterpretation in literary theory and narrative medicine. Following a short discussion of this paper and a clumsy segue towards the applications of this approach in reading literary narratives of dementia, she will introduce what she hopes to be more broad discussions of forgetting in literature and culture from embodied and narrative perspectives.
Of particular concern in these discussions is the way in which a healthy sense of self is typically attributed to narrative memory (Ricoeur) and that those who are no longer able to remember are no longer themselves. How can we respond to these claims in ways that redeem the subject but do not assume their position? Can forgetting be reconceived as a ‘thing’ in itself, since to forget something does not mean that that thing ceases to exist or never happened in the first place?
Tynan is also interested in the ways that forgetting can be visually and textually represented, often by means of absence or concealment, and the problems broadly associated with the influence of narrativity theses in literature and life. When forgetting becomes pathological, it is often illustrated in culture by a narrative quest (the detective novel, for example), that hunts down the gaps and absences in order to restore meaning and coherence. These representations, then, are tied up with a negative association of forgetting as that which must be found, restored, and repaired by memory. How can we begin to disentangle these associations in ways that may be ethically beneficial and socially aware?