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Memories and Vision

Bates, Catherine (2002) Memories and Vision. In: Narrative, Memory and Life Transitions. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 155-162.

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      For a sighted person, memory is strongly connected to vision and visual
      images. Even a memory triggered by a smell or sound tends to be a visual one.
      As a memory recedes over time, photographs can be used to refresh it,
      restructuring it in a particularly static, almost death-like way. A person who
      has died, for example, after time may be remembered more as their still visual
      image, captured in a photograph, than as the sum of their personality, actions,
      or essential human-ness. For people without vision, however, memory works in
      a different way. The transition from visual to non-visual memories can be
      traumatic, as shown in one recently-blind person’s account of that change. The
      only way for a person without sight to refresh fading visual memories is by
      description, usually from a sighted person, and this re-structures their
      memories in a verbal rather than visual way, through community rather than in
      isolation. For born-blind people, or people who lost their sight very early in
      life, memory is entirely structured by the remaining four senses, and can offer
      an insight into a more embodied, more lifelike form of recollection than the
      paucity of the visual image constructed through photographs. This paper will
      argue that different forms of memory can deeply affect our experience as
      human beings, and that photographs are the least ‘human’ way of remembering
      people. Objects and dialogue remind us of people - ourselves and others - in a
      much more vital, life-like way. As there is surprisingly little in the literature on
      visual culture on how visual memories are formed, I will combine my personal
      observations on memories with those from my sources (which also eliminates
      the risk of misinterpreting how others might read images and objects).

      Item Type: Book Chapter
      Additional Information: Copyright for chapters remain with individual authors at all times and permission should be sought from the author for any reproduction other than for personal use.
      Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
      B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
      Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences > Narrative and Memory Research Group > Narrative and Memory Research Group Annual Conference
      School of Human and Health Sciences
      Related URLs:
      Depositing User: Cherry Edmunds
      Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2009 10:21
      Last Modified: 30 Jul 2010 14:19


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