"Because if the dead cannot live, neither do we" : postmemory and passionate remembering in Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s Armenian Genocide trilogy
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This dissertation is about a kind of memory that differs from commemoration or memorialization, a distinctively passionate commitment to and kind of remembering that, using the nomenclature of Marianne Hirsch, I call “postmemory.” Theorists like Hirsch, Saidiya Hartman, and Walter Benjamin, along with other memory scholars from Holocaust and transatlantic slavery backgrounds, suggest that an explanation of postmemory can be found in the idea of the “imagination.” But these scholars have yet to theorize the imagination’s mediating role in rendering ancestral trauma productively constituent of the present. My contribution to memory studies centers on describing the relationship between memory and postmemory, particularly the theorizable site wherein and the operations whereby a process of mediation occurs. I make this contribution by analyzing Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s Armenian Genocide trilogy which richly understands, explores, and narratively realizes the mediation of the imagination for the purposes of passionate remembering. Focusing on the life and work of Marcom, I uncover unique aspects of postmemory for the Armenian diaspora that add nuance to theorizations of the phenomenon in both its particular and general appearances. My project also contributes to literary studies by offering the first sustained analysis of the under-discussed and yet highly decorated Marcom. By the end of Marcom’s trilogy and my analysis of it, literary studies emerges as a venue for productively exploring postmemory. Each of my analyses of Marcom’s three novels clarifies the imagination in its mediating role between memory and postmemory. In my chapters, I identify the inherited memory—the “source material”—and how a person who desires passionate remembering imaginatively vivifies the memory. Chapter One argues that Three Apples Fell from Heaven reinvigorates storytelling through a contrastive imagination which redeploys plot elements and characters from deep Armenian history to tell new stories about a denied genocide. Chapter Two argues that The Daydreaming Boy describes how an insufficient sentimental imagination attempts to reinvigorate a prelapsarian past only to repeat the past’s violences instead. Chapter Three argues that Draining the Sea depicts how an analogic imagination that reveals that sentience undergird conscience can forestall violence by encouraging victimized populations to feel solidarity with all mistreated others. The “Afterword” describes the pedagogic value of using literary studies and literature classes to examine postmemory.