The Significance of Memory

Since I just uploaded my blog post on Riding the Trail of Tears, I wanted to draw a parallel between Hausman’s cyberpunk historical fiction novel and author Alison Bechdel’s “family tragicomic”, Fun Home. Both works place great significance on the role of memory in the narrative frame.

Despite both pieces being entire different in genre and subject matter, the role of memory is one of the most prominent themes throughout each work. In Bechdel’s graphic memoir, she reflects on the relationship between her and her father throughout her childhood and how it has subsequently impacted her adult life. The story is told non-linearly, echoing the natural process of human thought by rapidly switches topics and time periods, while still working to create an overall cohesive narrative. This type of non-linear reflection is also seen in Riding the Trail of Tears: the chapters bounce between subjects, particularly between Tallulah’s tour group and the Misfits, while frequently referencing past events and memories.

The encorpation of memories in both pieces of literature serves to ground the narratives in some sort of identifiable time frame which the reader can identify and use to follow the complex story progressions. The memories laced within present-day narratives act as roots from which the story can grow. As Nick Sousanis said in his lecture on the union of text and image in comics, text is “tree-like” in that written storylines are rooted in specified events in time and space, which can then grow outward and more complex. Bechdel’s choice to use image as well as text in Fun Home allows her use of memory to expand the plot in ways that Hausman’s work cannot: Memories are now not simply told, but shown, adding to their significance and their emotional resonance with readers.

One comment

  1. I hadn’t really thought much about how memory is incorporated in Hausman’s work, though when I do it seems there is a lot about memory. The memory of the Trail of Tears has mostly been lost; according to the novel all accounts of the Cherokees’ experience of it seem to be based on the narrative of one or two people (the “Mooney book,” e.g.). The TREPP is supposed to bring those memories back, but it is probably mostly fiction. Most of the VR characters in the TREPP simply forget their experiences at the end of each loop, as the whole experience has mostly been lost. The Misfits remember, and they are able to get out of the loop (because they remember? Their memory means they can fight back and change whereas if one forgets one keeps doing the same violence over and over?).

    These thoughts take off from what you have here; they aren’t exactly related. It’s just that I hadn’t really connected Hausman’s work to memories in a deep way, and your post inspired me to try to do so.

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