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Department of Philosophy


Marianne Hirsch’s influential concept of postmemory articulates the ethical significance of representing trauma in art and literature. Postmemory, for Hirsch, “describes the relationship of children of survivors of cultural or collective trauma to the experiences of their parents, experiences that they ‘remember’ only as the narratives and images with which they grew up, but that are so powerful, so monumental, as to constitute memories in their own right”. Through appeal to philosophical work on memory, the ethics of remembering, and Peter Goldie’s discussion of empathy, I explore the virtues and limitations of Hirsch’s concept of postmemory, and the risks involved in empathic engagement in the past of another. This analysis informs my rejection of Hirsch’s attempt to place German author W.G. Sebald in league with the postmemory generation.