ImanMK-Assignment #4 - 102-Chocos

Iman Rezaei
Prof. Chocos
English 102
Assignment #4
June 16, 2013
The Memory of History and The History of Memory
Many forces and circumstances might lead an event to be happening. As time goes by there will
be more and more things that will be happen which makes history. People might remember and
retell the stories of past or if they do not know much about that they may think and learn about
them through other people and sources like books. But what is really important is the way people
learn about the past. The way which past is presented to the people in the present and future. 2 of
the main ways are according to historians who their main field of studies is history and studying
about what exactly happened in the past and the other way could be learning memories about the
past from non-historian people. But what is the difference between memory and history? How
does hearing a story from past that is told according to history differs from the way that can be
called a memory?
Historian Elliott J. Gorn got his Ph.D. from Yale University and currently he is teaching
at Purdue University. Popular culture is his main field of research. He discussed about the
difference between memory and history in an essay called “Professing History: Distinguishing
Between Memory And Past” that was published in a newspaper for college teachers and
administrators. Gorn emphasized the important role of historians and how people see them in the
society. “Many people in the humanities believe that historians are nothing but mindless
empiricists tweedy, seedy and dull.” (646) There is not much respect to historians as it should be.
Historians are the ones who distinguish between memory and history. They can affect future by
the way they talk and analyze about past and their thought might be different from each other.
Fortunate or unfortunate history has been always edited due to power or political, cultural
purposes before passing it to the new generation.
Discovering America is one of the most flattering events in the history. Most of the
stories talk about Columbus in a way that he went to America and discovered it by coincidence
and then came back to his country (Spain) with gold and some of the people who he met them in
America. But in reality it was not all simple. That is told like a good memory of past and not like
a history with specific details. Howard Zinn is one of the few historians who revealed the
complete and true story about Columbus in his article “Columbus, the Indians, and Human
Progress” Taking Native-Americans by force from their homeland slaves after taking all the gold
is one of the details that memory do not tell us, historians are suppose to say. Unfortunately
disrespects towards Indians are still in our society and it became a stereotype. “Superman and
Me” is a story from Sherman Alexie who is one of the well-known Native-American writers. He
wrote about the problems that he faced in the society, which were toward him. He describes with
his words: “We were Indian children who were expected to fail in the non-Indian world.” (2)
Broadly speaking stories about past are mostly presented through a memory form.
Without any pain, simply, encouraging and with happiness. Gorn defines memory: “Memory
necessarily simplifies the past in order to cast in strong emotional light.” (650) That is in our
blood. Most of us try to simplify the story in an attractive way, which encourages the audience
without talking and describing the sad situations with particular details. “The distinction between
history and memory that is, the distinction between knowledge of painful things… and notions of
the past that flatter us with easy myths or cheap emotions.” On the other side History attempts to
give more specific details and analysis what really happened.” (652)