Memory in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Perspectives from the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences
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‘There were our own, there were the others […] why should I not sing them?’1 questions the first elegy in the Scottish poet-solider Hamish Henderson’s Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenacia. The imperative to commit acts of remembrance during and after the events of a war is an ancient one, and intrinsically linked to what Paul Connerton calls the ‘ethics of memory’,2 a moral obligation to remember past people and events. Indeed, the majority of the action of Homer’s Iliad could be read as stemming from the moral obligation to remember, which we see work in different ways: from Achilles’s raging vengeance, Andromache’s keening anticipation of the death of her husband, and Priam’s negotiations in mourning for Hector, to Nestor’s meditated advice born out of experience of previous wars, and the funeral games of Patroclus. The action of the Iliad and its relation to memory and remembrance, as in many people’s memories of the wars of the last century and beyond, stem from a concern for one’s own, predicated on the allies versus enemies model of conventional, or ‘symmetric’, warfare. However, in Henderson’s lines we see concern for all people, nations and perspectives who have been affected by conflict (in Henderson’s case, African, British and German), and, as the elegies go on, this extends to a concern for all those who have been affected by any conflict. © The Editor(s) 2016.