Faculty members discuss memory through the use of literature

Three Lewis University faculty members discuss memory through the use of literature

Published: March 29, 2010.

Three Lewis faculty members from the English department discussed consciousness, one important dimension of memory, through literary works as part of the Lewis University Art of Memory series.

Dr. Michael Cunningham, professor of English and director of Arts and Ideas, explained that one of the features of high literary modernism is the writer’s attention to the inner life of characters. As Cunningham mentioned, certain novels describe the nature and function of memory, including its triggers, a person’s control over it as well as its power to either liberate or imprison. Cunningham asked his audience to examine how writers use language and literary devices to represent consciousness.

Dr. Wallace Ross, assistant professor of English, illustrated how “willed” memory is present in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and other James Joyce fiction. He also focused on the unconscious, taking a look at the work of psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Dr. Nancy Workman, professor of English, used Virginia Woolf’s, “Mrs. Dalloway” to demonstrate the effect of memory on individuals. For Woolf, memory is often imprisoning. Likewise, Dr. Cunningham’s thorough character analysis of William Faulkner’s, “The Sound and the Fury” suggests that memory is a trap that leads to self-annihilation.

The Art of Memory series is presented by the Lewis University History Center: Urban, Cultural and Catholic History of the Upper Midwest, which supports a biannual symposium. It is also a part of Lewis University’s Arts & Ideas Program, providing cultural and educational programming for students and the community. These events are free of charge and open to the public. For further information, please contact Dr. Ewa Bacon at (815) 836-5568.

A Catholic university sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis offers nearly 80 undergraduate majors and programs of study, accelerated degree completion options for working adults, various aviation programs and 22 graduate programs in nine fields. The ninth largest private, not-for-profit university in Illinois is being honored for the sixth consecutive year by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.

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