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Cultural Memory and Early Civilization
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Book description

Now available to an English-speaking audience, this book presents a groundbreaking theoretical analysis of memory, identity and culture. It investigates how cultures remember, arguing that human memory exists and is communicated in two ways, namely inter-human interaction and in external systems of notation, such as writing, which can span generations. Dr Assmann defines two theoretical concepts of cultural memory, differentiating between the long-term memory of societies, which can span up to 3,000 years, and communicative memory, which is typically restricted to 80 to 100 years. He applies this theoretical framework to case studies of four specific cultures, illustrating the function contexts and specific achievements, including the state, international law, religion and science. Ultimately, his research demonstrates that memory is not simply a means of retaining information, but rather a force that can shape cultural identity and allow cultures to respond creatively to both daily challenges and catastrophic changes.


‘Jan Assmann's work on cultural memory is essential for notions of memory and memorialization. I know of no modern scholarly study on collective memory and aspects relating to it, from Thucydides to modern Israel, from Genesis to modern Germany, that has not in some form drawn on Jan Assmann's theories on the relation between collective and cultural memory. In short, this book is an absolute classic, and will be invaluable to English-speaking scholars.’

Susanna Elm - University of California, Berkeley

‘More than canonical since its original publication in Germany, Cultural Memory and Early Civilization is one of the most important works of cultural analysis of the past two decades. Spanning cultural and media studies, sociology, ancient history, and numerous other fields, it has already underwritten volumes of research and theory in Europe. Its translation was long awaited, and will surely transform discourse in Anglophone scholarship as well. It is a genuine tour-de-force.’

Jeffrey Olick - University of Virginia

'Fantastically readable …'

Source: The Times Higher Education Supplement

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