Synopses & Reviews
Memory has a history. The Classical world ordered and valued events differently than the Medieval world; which, in turn, was replaced by "the memory" of the Renaissance. Matt Matsuda's compelling, multidisciplinary argument in The Memory of the Modern
is that the understanding, value, and uses of memory changed yet again at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, becoming distinctively "modern."
Matsuda proves his argument by visiting a remarkable array of "memory-sites": the destruction of a monument to Napoleon during the 1871 Paris Commune; the frantic selling of futures of the Paris stock-exchange; the state's forensic search for a vagabond rapist and murderer; a child's perjured testimony on the witness stand; a scientist's dissecting of the human brain; the invention of cameras and the cinema.
Each chapter studies a distinct moment when new representations of the past were forged, contested, and put to cultural and ideological use. And all these diverse events cohere as Matsuda repeatedly shows which "memories" were celebrated and which forgotten, which traditions invented and appropriated and which discarded. More importantly, he explains why, and in doing so answers the broader question: Who controls what is remembered and who is believed?
Matsuda demonstrates that the questions raised by the history of the birth of modern memory at the turn of the century resonate in the critical, ethical, and historical challenges of our own modernity and post-modernity.
"...enchantingly evocative and intellectually challenging....Matsuda'a masterpiece is destined to help us comprehend our present by helping us apprehend our past."--xxxxx
"Matsuda's conceptual approach opens fresh ways of seeing the importance of writing and the democratized print culture of the late nineteenth century. It also casts new light of understanding on the expansion of state records and files (the "memory of state"). And he fruitfully brings his framework to bear on the functions of such new "memory machines" as photography and cinema."--journal of social history
"The Memory of the Modern
provides a striking and wide-ranging analysis of the character and the conflicted centrality of memory in the modern period. Matt Matsuda's book complements recent studies of the memory problem in its historical groundedness, its narrative liveliness, and its inventive sense of the breadth and variety of cultural material relevant to the understanding of memory's epochal complication."--Richard Terdiman, University of California, Santa Cruz
"Matt Matsuda has written a richly suggestive work of cultural history. The Memory of the Modern is original, provocative and a pleasure to read."--Michael S. Roth, Director, European Studies, Claremont Graduate School
"...enchantingly evocative and intellectually challenging....Matsuda's masterpiece is destined to help us comprehend our present by helping us apprehend our past."--Narasingha Sil
"I believe that Matsuda has made an important contribution to both urban and social history, and one which will be of importance in the coming decades to Western scholars, whose research is bound to be characterized by increaingly urbanized social structures and, therefore, by policies and perspectives which depend on these structures....All of his work, including this book, should have an important place on library shelves and in the collections of scholars in modern French history."--Libraries and Culture
"The book makes a provocative contribution to the scholarly literature on the anxieties that beset French and European culture in the half-century that preceded 1914...Matsuda brings together diverse elements of high and low culture, old traditions and new technological innovations, and finds significant connections among them."--American Historical Review
A multidisciplinary work, Memory of the Modern examines stock markets, tango dancers, vagabond murderers, neurology, monument destruction, and colonial policies to document how individuals and institutions shaped memory in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book studies these diverse "memory-sites" to show how memory and history are fought over, shaped, and put to personal and ideological use.