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Permissions Icon Permissions. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Issue Section:. You do not currently have access to this article. History, on the other hand, is the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what is no longer.
Memory is always a phenomenon of the present; history is a representation of the past. Memory, being a phenomenon of emotion and magic, accommodates only those facts that suit it. It thrives on vague, telescoping reminiscences, on hazy general impressions or specific symbolic details.
It is vulnerable to transferences, screen memories, censorings, and projections of all kinds.
History, being an intellectual, nonreligious activity, calls for analysis and critical discourse. History ferrets it out; it turns whatever it touches into prose. This interpretation rings of a tone of modern alienation. It is important to note, however, that for Nora there is some similarity between memory and history. Both are subject to manipulation. Memory can be appropriated and refashioned and is selective.
History can be problematic and incomplete reconstruction; different motives and perspectives affect the nature and scope of the representation we call history. Approaches to Jewish Memory and History How have memory and history been assessed in Jewish historiography? Traditionally, the role of memory throughout Jewish history has been seen as important; formal history, however, has been cast as unimportant and often non-existent.
Bernard Lewis, the renowned historian of Jews under Islam, for example, some thirty years ago noted that Jewish historiographic literature in the Middle Ages was sparse and poor. The very topic of Jewish memory and history has received a great deal of attention since the Shoah.
In the last quarter century in particular the floodgates opened for the production of a variety of scholarly investigations into the broader ways and purposes for which Jews remember the past. With some of the same assumptions as those forwarded by Lewis, and steeped in the theoretical orientation of Halbwachs and the emerging discussions surrounding Nora and his school, the prominent and ground-breaking historian Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, in a slender volume of published lectures from the early s, set the stage for much of the subsequent discussion of Jewish memory and history.
Memory, History, and Jewish Identity 5 general observations about Jewish historiography and the relationship between memory and history, while forwarding an outline of the production and role of history and historiographical writing in Jewish tradition. The entire past was not the goal. Rather the idea of recollecting Jewish selection and uniqueness was central. Memory flowed in ancient Israel in two channels according to Yerushalmi, ritual and recital. Nor did they demonstrate much interest in recording contemporary events.
While the biblical past was known and the messianic future assured, the time in between was obscure and needed to be understood according to a previously revealed pattern. The rabbis, therefore, were comfortable in making time elastic.