Matters Of Time: Manipulation Of Memory In Early Irish Hagiography

Matters Of Time: Manipulation Of Memory In Early Irish Hagiography

Auslander, Diane Peters

Paper given at the 22nd Annual UC Celtic Studies Conference, March 16-19, at UCLA, (2000)


In Phantoms of Remembrance Patrick Geary sets out to explore “the complex process through which ordinary individuals order, understand, and retrieve all sorts of information that together provide the referential field within which to experience and evaluate their daily experiences and to prepare for the future.” This complex process involves the use of cultural memories that give meaning and authority to the present. Geary posits that remembering and recording what is remembered was an act of conscious choice in which what one chose to forget was as important as what one chose to remember. Thus memory sifts the past for useful information and, in this dynamic process, transforms or, as Geary says, distorts the past it purports to remember. Medieval authors, then, manipulated memory for the purposes of defending tradition, consolidating power, and validating their views of the present and future through the creation of a perception of continuity with the legitimating past.

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