Déjà Vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory

Referring to a past that never was, déjà vu shares a structure not only with fiction, but also with the ever more sophisticated effects of media technology. Tracing the term from the end of the nineteenth century, when it was first popularized in the pages of the Revue philosophique, Peter Krapp examines the genealogy and history of the singular and unrepeatable experience of déjà vu. This provocative book offers a refreshing counterpoint to the clichéd celebrations of cultural memory and forces us do a double take on the sanctimonious warnings against forgetting so common in our time.

Disturbances of cultural memory - screen memories, false recognitions, premonitions - disrupt the comfort zone of memorial culture: strictly speaking, déjà vu is neither a failure of memory nor a form of forgetting. Krappšs analysis of such disturbances in literature, art, and mass media introduces, historicizes, and theorizes what it means to speak of an economy of attention or distraction. Reaching from the early psychoanalytic texts of Sigmund Freud to the plays of Heiner Müller, this exploration of the effects of déjà vu pivots around the work of Walter Benjamin and includes readings of kitsch and aura in Andy Warhol's work, of cinematic violence and certain exaggerated claims about shooting and cutting, of the memorial character of architecture, and of the high expectations raised by the Internet.

Peter Krapp is Associate Professor of Film & Media / Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine, where he also contributes to the Departments of English and Informatics. He co-edited Medium Cool, a special issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly on contemporary media theory.

296 pages | 5-7/8 x 9 | 2004
Publisher: Univ of Minnesota Press (May '04)
$19.95 paper ISBN 0-8166-4335-0
$59.95 cloth ISBN 0-8166-4334-2
Electronic Mediations Series, volume 12

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"Déjà Vu displays a rare conceptual strength and the ability to read both canonical and more obscure documents in a unique and forceful fashion."
- Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania

"An original and learned study that brings together a broad range of themes and authors under this seemingly unremarkable experience."
- Gregory Ulmer, University of Florida

"Bold and highly provocative. Compelling and refreshing."
- Afterimage

"No less ambitious than an Arcades Project looking at the cultural history of the twentieth century: an ambition that constitutes this book's greatest achievement."
- Colloquy

"A truly interdisciplinary project, revealing how the study of mediality - when complemented with aesthetic theory, cultural history, literature, and psychoanalysis - can critically construct a past that is yet to come."
- Cultural Critique

"One comes out of the other side of the book witha productively destabilized understanding of déjà vu."
- Janus Head


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