Publication details [#7155]

Larsen, Steen F. 1987. Remembering and the archaeology metaphor. Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 2 (3) : 187–199. 13 pp.


Freud used archaeological excavation as a metaphor for the remembering of previous experiences in therapy. This metaphor for memory has recently come under attack on the grounds that modern psychology of memory has cast doubt on whether memories preserve "historical truths." In particular, it seems that information about later events - including verbalizations and narrativizations of the original event - are integrated with and thus change the memory. This contrasts with the solid, immutable objects that are supposedly uncovered by archaeologists. However, it is now recognized that the nature of archaeological evidence does not fit this naive view. Not only do objects change over time, but the process of excavation inevitably disturbs and destroys contextual evidence decisive for interpretation. It is argued here that with this richer contemporary understanding of archaeology, Freud's metaphor of memory is still quite appropriate. Some epistemological implications are discussed as examples of interesting issues suggested by the revised archaeology metaphor. (Steen Larsen)