Memory and Madness in Pirandello's Enrico IV


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Matthew Arnold's view in "The Study of Poetry" (1880) that the shaking of creeds and questioning of accredited dogma would increasingly turn man "to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us" was soon followed in mathematics by David Hilbert's questioning in 1891 of the absolute "truths" of Euclidean geometry. In memory theory, too, Théodule Ribot was moving psychology away from St. Augustine's view in the Confessions (c.400) of a sense of deity within individual memory that not only afforded the recognition of God but also became a fixed principle of free will and the formation of a unified self. By examining memory dysfunctions, scientists like Paul Broca, Ribot, and Pierre Janet were promoting such novel ideas as "localization." Localization held that different parts of the brain controlled or "remembered" specific actions and messages in disparate unifying "centers" or "nodes." These scientists had already formulated notions of "a divided self"-i.e., a normal consciousness which organizes itself about the languages and memories of directed and specific tasks so that, for instance, a scientist on a fishing trip might temporarily "forget" his science and speak and behave entirely like a fisherman. They had, likewise, concluded that "changes of memory bring changes of personality."1 For most, the memory losses which they studied for their discoveries were the results of injuries or insults to the brain. But scientists were aware, too, that not all memory dysfunctions were physiological, and the work of Sigmund Freud and others soon added to the concept of localized brain functions the "localized" divisions of ego, id, and superego as well as processes such as "repression," "distortion," and ''symbolization" to deal with normal memory and emotional and psychological memory dysfunction.2

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