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Presenting the Past
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Ms. A. and the Problem of Misremembering 2. Memory's Contexts 3. Memory, Culture, and the Self 4. Trauma and the Memory Wars 5. Toward an Intersubjective Science of Memory Conclusion Notes Acknowledgments Index

Promotional Information

In this compelling book, Jeffrey Prager has created a sociology of memory, showing how memory is situated in interpersonal contexts, and draws from cultural tropes. At the same time, he challenges the social sciences to open their epistemological and methodological doors to case studies of individuals and to recognize that subjectivity is personally created rather than socially or culturally determined. Psychoanalysis, he documents, takes us well beyond the experientially and interpretively thin sociological subject. -- Nancy J. Chodorow, Member and Faculty, San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute and Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley [This book] presents a thoughtful and at times provocative analysis of social and subjective aspects of remembering. The book is a serious, careful, and scholarly attempt to shift the emphasis in memory theory from the individual mind/brain to the social contexts in which remembering occurs in everyday life. Drawing on his dual backgrounds in psychoanalysis and sociology, Prager is able to put together an analysis that contains unique and sometimes revealing perspectives concerning the process of remembering. -- Daniel L. Schacter, Department Chair and Professor of Psychology, Harvard University No debate has become more vexed in recent decades than that about human memory, and no one has brought more intelligence, balance, and gentleness to that debate than Jeffrey Prager. He gives us a brilliant clinical interpretation of a patient who successively 'doesn't remember,' 'remembers,' and 'unremembers' childhood sexual 'experiences' and then brings alive vast, additional ranges of psychological and social evidence about memory. How often is a book so scholarly also so compelling that one can't put it down? Almost never, but that is what happened to me. -- Neil Smelser, Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences This talented writer brings together insights from sociology and psychoanalysis to give new meaning to the malleability of human memory. His readers will take away a deep appreciation for this fundamental truth: memory cannot be set apart from the personal, temporal, and cultural context in which it occurs. -- Elizabeth Loftus, Professor of Psychology, University of Washington and President, American Psychological Society Finally we have a book that puts the false memory debate into a fresh perspective. Both lucidly analytical and emotionally compelling, Presenting the Past is the riveting story of one woman's journey to self-understanding. But Jeffrey Prager's stakes are larger; he confronts the hardest questions about how the individual self fits into the social world. Memory and identity are combined here in a book that will set the agenda for discussion for years to come. -- Lynn Hunt, Annenberg Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania Prager brings a thoroughly reasoned and balanced viewpoint to a contentious problem--the veracity of traumatic memories. He documents that remembering is not simply the product of individual minds but must be understood in an intersubjective and cultural context. Presenting the Past provides a much needed and refreshing clarity to this controversial and highly politicized subject. -- Arnold Modell, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

About the Author

Jeffrey Prager is Professor of Sociology at UCLA and a member of the faculty of the Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute.

Reviews

In his thought-provoking Presenting the Past, Jeffrey Prager examines the phenomena of recovered memory and the influences of therapy. Interweaving his theoretical stance with a single case study, he describes his work as 'a psychoanalytic treatment to explore the complicated relation between the individual and the collective, and the ways in which the cultural interpenetrates the most individual of pursuits, memory and self-constitution'...Prager skilfully moves the reader from the therapeutic setting to the wider social context and back again, allowing us insight into [his patient's] experience from two perspectives, her relationships with family and her therapist, and the influence of the culture in which she was living. -- Janet Feigenbaum * Times Literary Supplement *
It is often referred to as the Tolstoy question. Do great men help to create zeitgeist, or are they simply its pawns?...Prager has written an engaging contribution to the vast literature on this topic which is particularly valuable because it focuses on memory. People often forget that memory, too, is part of the self and therefore one of the proper subjects for 'Tolstoy' debate. -- Chris Nunn * Journal of Consciousness Studies *
Prager's Presenting the Past is an extraordinarily ambitious project, one that is constructed and checked by the complex relationship between psychoanalysis and sociology. Confronting head-on the recent culture wars, and in particular debates about the veracity of traumatic memories, Presenting the Past is at the same time personal and philosophical, intersubjective and cultural, psychodynamic and sociological. Prager displays a formidable command of recent research in sociology, social theory, cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis and neuroscience, and a powerful vision of how such discourses can be synthesized to place the constitution of memory in relation to the intrapsychic, interpersonal, and cultural worlds in which it occurs. To sustain the vision, while emphasizing throughout the dialectical relationship between the psyche and society, is an impressive achievement...Prager's analytical narrative is captivating throughout. This is advanced psychoanalytic social theory at its finest, capturing--through a detailed case study--the complex relation between psyche and society, memory and history, the personal and the political, intersubjectivity and culture. Prager's Presenting the Past offers a first-rate social theory of memory. -- Anthony Elliot * Psychoanalytic Studies *
In this compelling book, Jeffrey Prager has created a sociology of memory, showing how memory is situated in interpersonal contexts, and draws from cultural tropes. At the same time, he challenges the social sciences to open their epistemological and methodological doors to case studies of individuals and to recognize that subjectivity is personally created rather than socially or culturally determined. Psychoanalysis, he documents, takes us well beyond the experientially and interpretively thin sociological subject. -- Nancy J. Chodorow, Member and Faculty, San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute and Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
[This book] presents a thoughtful and at times provocative analysis of social and subjective aspects of remembering. The book is a serious, careful, and scholarly attempt to shift the emphasis in memory theory from the individual mind/brain to the social contexts in which remembering occurs in everyday life. Drawing on his dual backgrounds in psychoanalysis and sociology, Prager is able to put together an analysis that contains unique and sometimes revealing perspectives concerning the process of remembering. -- Daniel L. Schacter, Department Chair and Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
No debate has become more vexed in recent decades than that about human memory, and no one has brought more intelligence, balance, and gentleness to that debate than Jeffrey Prager. He gives us a brilliant clinical interpretation of a patient who successively 'doesn't remember,' 'remembers,' and 'unremembers' childhood sexual 'experiences' and then brings alive vast, additional ranges of psychological and social evidence about memory. How often is a book so scholarly also so compelling that one can't put it down? Almost never, but that is what happened to me. -- Neil Smelser, Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
This talented writer brings together insights from sociology and psychoanalysis to give new meaning to the malleability of human memory. His readers will take away a deep appreciation for this fundamental truth: memory cannot be set apart from the personal, temporal, and cultural context in which it occurs. -- Elizabeth Loftus, Professor of Psychology, University of Washington and President, American Psychological Society
Finally we have a book that puts the false memory debate into a fresh perspective. Both lucidly analytical and emotionally compelling, Presenting the Past is the riveting story of one woman's journey to self-understanding. But Jeffrey Prager's stakes are larger; he confronts the hardest questions about how the individual self fits into the social world. Memory and identity are combined here in a book that will set the agenda for discussion for years to come. -- Lynn Hunt, Annenberg Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
Prager brings a thoroughly reasoned and balanced viewpoint to a contentious problem--the veracity of traumatic memories. He documents that remembering is not simply the product of individual minds but must be understood in an intersubjective and cultural context. Presenting the Past provides a much needed and refreshing clarity to this controversial and highly politicized subject. -- Arnold Modell, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

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