“Different Ways of Telling a Story”: Memories as Representations and Representations of Memories in Barnes, Woolf and Tolstoy

Proceedings of The 7th International Conference on New Findings in Humanities and Social Sciences

Year: 2022

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.33422/7th.hsconf.2022.04.015


“Different Ways of Telling a Story”: Memories as Representations and Representations of Memories in Barnes, Woolf and Tolstoy

Elena Bollinger



This paper aims to examine a creative dialogue between a nonspeaking, extralinguistic and unique memory of a self and its verbal representation in literature, as experienced in some of the texts written by Barnes, Woolf and Tolstoy. In view of many contemporary theories which connect language, literature and culture (Larsen, 2016), this article seeks to reflect upon the concept of cultural memory as a dialogically constructed transcultural reference to the European collective past. Considered as a source for cultural memory, literature may provide valuable critical insights into the processes responsible for the construction and circulation of memory cultures. As a key part of the overarching analysis, this paper will consider, first, A. Erll’s methodology featuring memories as always textualized, recorded mediations or narrativizations of the experienced events. Second, the present research will also benefit from Lachmann’s approach to the literary writing as a tendentiously intertextual endeavour, to the extent that the attempts to narrate memory necessarily imply a counter-productive transformation of the remembered past beyond the limits of any form of textuality. Third, the proposed theoretical rationale behind the overall research project will rely upon the detailed literary analysis of relevant narrative devices observed in the selected works written by Barnes, Woolf and Tolstoy. Sharing a common belief in art as one of the most valuable means of intercourse between man and man, the three novelists, working consciously on a literary task, seem also to be concerned with an attempt to read one’s subjective memory, experiencing simultaneously a “completely new liberation from personality” (Paperno: 89). The aim is to demonstrate that the continuous, though non-linear sequel, thus established between three different literary texts and their cultural contexts, could become a productive dialogic counter-memory, a kind of an inter-generic displacement of cultures, providing a firm foundation for further academic debates in the fields of memory and literary studies.

keywords: Memory, Literature, Collective Identity, Counter-memory, Forgetting.