Question 11 — Elective 2: History and Memory (20 marks)
Analyse the ways history and memory generate compelling and unexpected insights. In your response, make detailed reference to your prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your own choosing.
History and memory both provide adequate insights into the past, but it is through the consideration and combination of the two that compelling and unexpected insights are generated. After having analysed and studied a selection of poems from Denise Levertov’s anthology ‘Freeing of the Dust’ and ‘Millicent’s Story’, which is an extract from the ‘Report of the National Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal children from their families’ it has become apparent to me that this viewpoint is demonstrated vividly through a variety of textual forms and a plethora of elements and techniques. History claims to record the truth of past events. At its best it is aware of its limitations to be entirely truthful because of its partial and highly biased nature. Traditionally history was more respected than memory as a representation of the past because it was viewed as an empirical study and thus was more reliable. During the post-modernist era, however, a new view arrived, which placed higher value on memories for their ability to disrupt and dispute the meta-narrative provided by history. This disruption of history generates compelling and unexpected insights into the past when both history and memory are considered. In Levertov’s poem ‘In Thai (Peace) Province’ she recreates her time spent in Vietnam during the Vietnam War working as an official reporter recording history and memories. The opening line expressed in first person ‘I’ve used up all my film on bombed hospitals’ makes it seem as if Levertov is dispassionate and neutral towards the war. This is further reinforced through the repetition of ‘bombed’, which conveys the factual and partial nature of history. It cannot create an intimate and...
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