Comparing Memories

Comparing Memories

Some memories get recalled again and again. We tell them as narrative refrains that are mixed in with accounts of new experiences — ‘It was just like back when . . . ‘ Sometimes memories are drawn out to be retold (or silently remembered) at certain times of year — like the memory of a good bye on the anniversary of the last time a loved one was seen.

Memories are not simply what happened to us then. Memories are how we build our now out of the stuff of what we’ve carried inside of us from before.

Teaching history, I am intrigued by memory. It is the source for our understanding of the past and of the present. But it is a flowing resource and a work in progress. To understand the power of memory — and its potentials for shaping our nows and our futures — it is important to observe that memory is not solidly fixed and it should not be assumed to be static.  Continue reading

Our French Revolution

Our French Revolution

The syllabus prescribed that my graduate students and I would spend the three-hour class discussing the French Revolution. I’d assembled my lecture notes. I’d reminded everyone what they needed to read before class. I was reasonably certain most of us would be prepared.

Stepping in front of the classroom, I sketched out the noteworthy milestones we needed to cover in our one-class survey of a very big topic. Students busily typed on their laptops or wrote in their notebooks. I sat down on the table that served as my desk and swung my legs forward and back; waiting for everyone to give me their attention. I had an idea. It came to me as I sat there. And then, I began . . .  Continue reading