John Locke, memory, and narratives of origin. Simmons, P. C. Lumen: Selected Proceedings from the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 21(1):61–85, 2002.
John Locke, memory, and narratives of origin [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
[first paragraph] It is perhaps a critical commonplace to identify John Locke as the founding father of an emerging modern conception of identity that is not only fluid and forged in the matrix of idiosyncratic historical circum- stances, but one that also continually draws on memories of the past.1 In this we can see incipiently in Locke's epistemological reflections on the self the seeds of current debates about the constructed nature of identity and the possibility of agency, while at the same time discern how Locke's formulation of personal identity as the consciousness of self-memory underpins subsequent historical conceptualizations of the nation, the emergence of psychoanalytic discourses of the self, and recent articula- tions of alternate historical narratives. And yet as much as Locke en- dorses a model of self that resists the imposition of external meanings by legitimating subjective self-recollection as the grounds of identity, what intrigues me here is the way in which the inability to remember functions in Locke's epistemology. More specifically, what implicitly informs Locke's rigorous scrutiny of understanding in the Essay, in so far as that entails grasping one's own consciousness as the condition of thought, is coming to terms with inaccessible origins. This failure of memory to access directly one's own origin extends in Locke's political writing to a cultural inability to remember precisely the birth of the nation. Here the trope of an unremembered birth serves the rhetorical function of enabling Locke to construct a narrative of origins that sup- ports his own view about the emergence of political society and the consequent nature of political obligation. In the following discussion I aim to bring into relief Locke's implicit preoccupation with inaccessible origins in the Essay in order then to suggest that this anxiety provides him with a way of figuring the beginnings of political society in the Two Treatises of Government.
@article{Simmons2002,
abstract = {[first paragraph] It is perhaps a critical commonplace to identify John Locke as the founding father of an emerging modern conception of identity that is not only fluid and forged in the matrix of idiosyncratic historical circum- stances, but one that also continually draws on memories of the past.1 In this we can see incipiently in Locke's epistemological reflections on the self the seeds of current debates about the constructed nature of identity and the possibility of agency, while at the same time discern how Locke's formulation of personal identity as the consciousness of self-memory underpins subsequent historical conceptualizations of the nation, the emergence of psychoanalytic discourses of the self, and recent articula- tions of alternate historical narratives. And yet as much as Locke en- dorses a model of self that resists the imposition of external meanings by legitimating subjective self-recollection as the grounds of identity, what intrigues me here is the way in which the inability to remember functions in Locke's epistemology. More specifically, what implicitly informs Locke's rigorous scrutiny of understanding in the Essay, in so far as that entails grasping one's own consciousness as the condition of thought, is coming to terms with inaccessible origins. This failure of memory to access directly one's own origin extends in Locke's political writing to a cultural inability to remember precisely the birth of the nation. Here the trope of an unremembered birth serves the rhetorical function of enabling Locke to construct a narrative of origins that sup- ports his own view about the emergence of political society and the consequent nature of political obligation. In the following discussion I aim to bring into relief Locke's implicit preoccupation with inaccessible origins in the Essay in order then to suggest that this anxiety provides him with a way of figuring the beginnings of political society in the Two Treatises of Government.},
author = {Simmons, Patricia C.},
doi = {10.7202/1012268ar},
file = {:Users/michaelk/Library/Application Support/Mendeley Desktop/Downloaded/Simmons - 2002 - John Locke, memory, and narratives of origin.pdf:pdf},
issn = {1209-3696},
journal = {Lumen: Selected Proceedings from the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies},
number = {1},
pages = {61--85},
title = {{John Locke, memory, and narratives of origin}},
url = {http://id.erudit.org/iderudit/1012268ar},
volume = {21},
year = {2002}
}
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