The best books about forgetting

Guy Beiner Author Of Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster
By Guy Beiner

Who am I?

Guy Beiner specializes in the history of social remembering in the late modern era. An interest in Irish folklore and oral traditions as historical sources led him to explore folk memory, which in turn aroused an interest in forgetting. He examines the many ways in which communities recall their past, as well as how they struggle with the urge to supress troublesome memories of discomfiting episodes.


I wrote...

Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

By Guy Beiner,

Book cover of Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

What is my book about?

Forgetful Remembrance examines the paradoxes of what actually happens when communities persistently endeavour to forget inconvenient events. The question of how a society attempts to obscure problematic historical episodes is addressed through a detailed case study grounded in the north-eastern counties of the Irish province of Ulster, where loyalist and unionist Protestants--and in particular Presbyterians--repeatedly tried to repress over two centuries discomfiting recollections of participation, alongside Catholics, in a republican rebellion in 1798.

The books I picked & why

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Memory, History, Forgetting

By Paul Ricoeur,

Book cover of Memory, History, Forgetting

Why this book?

A landmark philosophical tome, which argues for the ‘imbrication of forgetting in memory’. The disentangling of the complex relationships between history, memory and forgetting raises ethical questions about abuses of memory and interrogates the connection between forgetting and forgiving.


Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting

By Harold Weinrich, Steven Rendall (translator),

Book cover of Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting

Why this book?

An inspirational exploration of profound contemplations on forgetting, which takes the reader on a guided tour through neglected passages in the writings of illustrious writers from antiquity to present times, including Homer, Ovid, Plato, Augustine, Dante, Rabelais, Montaigne, Cervantes, Locke, Voltaire, Kant, Goethe, Nietzsche, Sartre, Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Böll, Borges, and many others.


How Modernity Forgets

By Paul Connerton,

Book cover of How Modernity Forgets

Why this book?

A concise and lucid sociological treatise that relates forgetting to the transitions and rapid changes of contemporary urban life, which has eroded the ways in which societies traditionally remembered the past.


Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age

By Viktor Mayer-Schönberger,

Book cover of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age

Why this book?

Recognising that modern digital technologies, by preserving too much information, undermine the essential role forgetting has played throughout history, this book presents a forceful argument for countering violations of privacy by upholding the ‘right to be forgotten’.


A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past

By Lewis Hyde,

Book cover of A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past

Why this book?

A fascinating collection of miscellanea, which constitute ‘a thought experiment seeking out places where forgetting is more useful than memory’. Thoroughly entertaining and full of eye-opening anecdotes.


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