In Memory in Culture, Astrid Erll contends that if we want to understand the various crises of the present, we need to consider the "mental, discursive, and habitual paradigms that were formed in long historical processes – via cultural memory." In the current climate of debates about the national past, it is timely to take stock of the field of memory studies, as such studies can help us understand, as Ann Rigney suggests, "how stories about the past emerge as common points of reference and, in the process, help to define collective identities." This article will provide some background to the field of memory studies and discuss two important new directions in the field: a concern with the mediation of memory and an interest in postcolonial, transnational, and "traveling" memory. The specific objective is to consider the relevance of memory studies for scholars of 18th‐century literature and, conversely, the relevance of 18th‐century literature for the field of memory studies. The broader aim is to encourage further work that will focus attention on the constructedness of even the most long‐standing and pervasive national memories.
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