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3bluewishes
Registered User
(11/20/07 4:13 pm)

evidence for repressed memory in literature pre-1800
Hello everyone,

I haven't been to this board in a while, but as I was reading an article on dissociative amnesia for my gradute work, I was suddenly reminded of this site. Let me explain more thoroughly, the article I was reading asserted that because there is no reference to dissociative amnesia in any literature at all across the whole world before 1800, that the concept is a modern construct. In this case dissociative amnesia was called 'repressed memories' and defined as amnesia for a traumatic event (such as a murder or abuse or violent attack) and only for that event. It cannot be related to head injuries (or other medical causes like seizures) or regular forgetting or amnesia for all events good and bad for an extended period of time. To bring it back to why I am posting this on THIS board- the method that they used to test this hypothesis was to post a request online in various places asking people to submit ANY fictional or non-fictional account of ANYTHING that looked like repressed memories in any world lit. before 1800. They found nothing- proof they said, that this is a modern phenomenon. So my question for the people of this board is do you agree? I thought that for sure there would be references in folk tales or fairy tales. Are there really no references to repressed memories, specifically of amnesia for traumatic events, anywhere in the any of the areas that any of you are familiar with that might be pre-1800? This is not about the validity of the notion of repressed memories or dissociative amnesia, but simply a question of whether the references are present in the literature. Boy this post got long fast- so I'll wrap up. This is not for any specific project, just to satisfy my own curiosity and perhaps generate discussion. So please if anyone has any thoughts let me know. Thanks so much,

jen

ref for article: Pope, HG, Poliakoff, MB, Parker, MP, Boynes, M, & Hudson, JI. (2007). "Is dissociative amnesia a culture-bound syndrome? Findings of a survey of historical literature". Psychological Medicine, 37, 225-233.

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(11/20/07 9:40 pm)


Re: evidence for repressed memory in literature pre-1800
Hmm. Honestly, you know where I'd look? I know this is going to sound trite, but I'd look in Freud. He often turned to literature for evidence and examples, and he might well have mined some pre-19th-century stuff as well.

I can't think of anything off the top of my head, but I'll keep on trying.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(11/20/07 10:28 pm)


fig-leaves
Hm. Considering the fairy tale preference for specific, concrete events and causes, I'd expect that if there were such tales, they would provide a knock on the head or a potion or at least an illness as a handle, so to speak.

Some sort of selective amnesia might explain the convention of easy disguise: after a traumatic quarrel and banishment, the banished person can reappear in disguise and never be suspected. Maybe that could be argued as the other party having forgotten how she looked, talked, etc.

There's also 'brain fever' or 'brain fag' or such. TOMMY AND GRIZEL, RICHARD FEVERAL. Given emotional shock or heartbreak, characters of that time would contract 'brain fever' and when they recovered months later, they would have forgotten the traumatic event, or at least it would have lost its 'emotional charge.'

kristiw
Registered User
(11/21/07 10:15 am)


memory loss through enchantment
Well, there are a lot of stories about loss of memory through enchantment, but I'm not sure if the versions I know predate 1800. The first thing that came to mind was The True Bride and versions thereof, where the bridegroom leaves before the wedding, runs into some villain and is put under a spell to forget his wife-to-be. She finds him, but he doesn't know her until something-- a song, a kiss-- triggers his memory and breaks the spell.

In Robin Mckinley's Deerskin the princess has a kind of dissociative amnesia after her traumatic rape, but that's modern-- is there any suggestion of that in the original Donkeyskin?

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(11/21/07 7:37 pm)


Re: memory loss through enchantment
In the original? Heck no. She always escapes before the wedding.

kristiw
Registered User
(11/22/07 12:21 am)


Re: memory loss through enchantment
Oh not the rape, of course that was added, I meant a suggestion of memory loss.

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(11/22/07 9:59 am)


Re: memory loss through enchantment
No rape and no memory loss.

What would she lose the memory of?

3bluewishes
Registered User
(12/5/07 10:51 pm)


Re: memory loss through enchantment
I am facinated by the notion of the reflection of our mental disorders within popular literature and have had a few suggestions outside of fairy tales (Moses having no memory of actually receiving the 10 commandments, Hercules having no memory of a killing spree). I am still not convinced that there are no references within fairy tales, but the points made by several of the posters about concrete causes being popular make some sense. Though, interestingly, both amok and berserk are considered to be dissociative in nature and diagnosable and there are plenty of occasions of battle rages and transformations during battle in myth (like Cuchulain). Thanks for giving this topic some thought, I appreciate it!

rosyelf
Registered User
(12/12/07 7:12 am)


Dissociative memory loss

I can't think of any example off the top of my head, but I would suspect any article claiming what this article seems to be claiming. That the article's authors haven't found any EVIDENCE or INDICATION of Disassociative Memory Loss is one thing. To conclude, as they have done, that DML did not exist, anywhere, at all, before 1800, is a big leap. And absurd, if I may say so. Is something valid only if it is written down and preserved and analysed later by academics ? Surely not.

kristiw
Registered User
(12/12/07 9:22 am)


Re: Dissociative memory loss
Yes, that's faulty scholarship-- lack of evidence isn't evidence of lack.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(12/15/07 4:42 am)


hmmm
Considering the limitations of the traditional European fairy tale form -- Luthi's 'maarchen' -- it might be fun to make a list of all the OTHER things they don't show evidence for. :-)

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(12/15/07 10:05 am)


Re: Dissociative memory loss
Well, actually, lack of evidence is evidence of lack.

It's not proof of lack, but it is evidence.

3bluewishes
Registered User
(12/15/07 10:29 am)


Re: Dissociative memory loss
Rosyelf-

You pretty much put your finger on what I thought was bad about the artilce. It bothered me that a scholarly article published in a peer reviewed journal would have such holes in the logic of the arguement. In my opinion, it is 'evidence of a lack' only from a narrow, ill-defined perspective.

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(12/16/07 5:50 am)


otoh....
ANY fictional or non-fictional account of ANYTHING that looked like repressed memories in any world lit. before 1800

I'd think something would have turned up somewhere, even if we assume that not only fairy tales but most literary incidents would add some colorful cause such as sickness or a blow on the head.

Hm, selective amnesia might explain some fairy tale characters' being victimized two or three times in the same way, such as Snow White. It isn't stated, but the fact that the audience accepted the repetition, might argue that selective amnesia was credible to the audience.

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(12/16/07 11:41 am)


Re: otoh....
We can all see every day that someone does something stupid again after seeing it was stupid the first time. "Wishful thinking" fits Ockham's Razor better.

(The problem with defining insanity as doing the same thing and expecting different results is that what's the point of insanity as identical to humanity?)

MaryCatelli
Registered User
(12/18/07 9:10 pm)


Re: otoh....
Come to think of it, Snow White's situation would make the best sense if you gave her some time to get careless between the visits. . . .

(Turning fairy tales into shorts frequently requires some fancy footwork to explain why people do manifestly dumb things.)

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