Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age

In the reading "Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age" Charles Baxter has a few different meaning that come out of the title of his work. the first thing that jumps out at me was how he broke up his writing into 5 different sections. In the first section he talks in the first person about his brother.
"In memory of Tom, my brother" he addresses the fact that his brother was not able to remember written information, but was able to remember a story that someone told him years ago down to every detail. the other thing his brother was good at was remembering faces. "I'll repeat this for emphasis: he never forgot anyone. He loved to tell stories about how he had recognized some one who didn't recognize him, who had forgotten who he was."(Baxter Pg.142)
I believe from this section of the story he ties the title of the story back into the life of his brother. His brother had shame because he wasn't able to retain information that was in written form, information that anyone else would be able to understand. The other way Baxter brings the title of the story into section one is with memory. his brother had a great memory when it came to stories and people, but he also wanted to be remembered. His brother was generous to everyone by giving away things to people so that they would remember him.

"He wanted to be remembered. To this end, he was horribly, shockingly, punitively generous to everyone. He was always giving something away. It was in his nature to do so, but it was also a request: please remember me; after all I remember you. Every gift from him was a remembrance. He was bankrupt twice, mostly because he gave everything away." (Baxter Pg. 143)

In the second section Baxter moves from informal to more of a formal narration. In this section he talks about how we as a society have a different view of memory than we did before due to technology. "your memory can now in casual conversation refer to your computer's memory rather than your own. the usage of signals a conflation in the way that we think about the data we remember, as opposed to what we would call our memories." (Baxter Pg.145) I believe that this also refers to the title of the piece. Also dealing with memory, he talks about strategic amnesia. This is how we as people chose what we want to forget about our memories, or history of ourselves. I think that this had a lot to do with the shame part in the title. when people feel shame about something that has happened in their lives they tend to want to forget it ever happened.

In part three he goes on to talk about an essay called "The Storyteller" by Walter Benjamin. "Benjamin goes on, in a wonderfully suggestive but somewhat unclear manner, to differentiate between a memory for information and memory for experience." (Baxter Pg.149) I believe that these two types of memory can be used for different things. Your information memory could be used for your job, or school while your experiences can be used to shape a persons life and personality. I agree that these are two totally different types of memory that can be used for two totally different things in a persons life.

In part four titled "Shame, Innocence, and Memoir" Baxter goes on to talk about how peoples memoirs are looked down upon when really it's more of a breath of fresh air from all the information that people are bombarded with now-a-days. "But if we follow the lines sketched out by Benjamin, we might discover that the literary memoir is, like therapy, a local antidote to information-poisoning." (Baxter Pg.151) I think that this addresses the memory and information part of Baxter's title. The memoir is one of the last true ways a person can express a memory.

"Maybe Erasure is Necessary: The Literature of Forgetting" is the fifth and final part to Baxter's piece. In this part he addresses the effort of time spent trying to remember history and preserving personal memories as a cultural artifacts. I this final part he addresses trauma into the story of history and shame. "History is narratable as long as its events occur in some logical way, but when trauma and shame are introduced into the mix, history is corrupted from the inside." (Baxter Pg. 156)

I believe that Baxter was trying to get the point across that our memories are important in this day in age. No matter how much technology we have we still need to deal with our own memories, good or bad. I think that we also need to be able to have a strong filter for what we want to remember and what we need to remember because today there is so much useless crap out there that gets in the way of the important things in life.


  1. Hi Tom,

    I enjoyed reading your post on Baxter's essay. I agree with you that "no matter how much technology we have we still need to deal with our own memories, good or bad."


  2. Hi:)

    yes, I like that we need a filter for memories.
    anyway, you wrote a lot, great!

  3. Tom,
    I agree with your interpretation of Baxter's essay. Nicely written. I as well think Baxter's purpose for this essay was trying to get across how important our memories are in everyday life, good or bad.

  4. Tom,
    I enjoyed reading you very laid out and punctual texts. I too would have to agree that Baxter's purpose was to get across the importance of momories and not data.

  5. hi tom,

    i like your piece that you wrote on Baxter. it seems like you really understand the tect. ALso good use of quotes and pieces from the text.