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Still life, a mirror : phasic memory and re-encounters with artworks.

Mac Cumhaill, Clare (2020) 'Still life, a mirror : phasic memory and re-encounters with artworks.', Review of philosophy and psychology., 11 (2). pp. 423-446.


Re-encountering certain kinds of artworks in the present (re-listening to music, re-reading novels) can often occasion a kind of recollection akin to episodic recollection, but which may be better cast as ‘phasic’, at least insofar as one can be said to remember ‘what it was like’ to be oneself at some earlier stage or phase in one’s personal history. The kinds of works that prompt such recollection, I call ‘still lives’ - they are limited wholes whose formal properties are stable over time. In the first part of the paper, I spell out a way of making sense of the peculiar power that certain artworks have to occasion such recollection – it is, as I explain, a power or ductus that derives from the form of the artwork, though possession of such a power is not limited to art. I then detail three dimensions along which episodic recollection and phasic recollection as occasioned by re-encountering ‘still lives’ differ: metaphysical, phenomenological, and descriptive. In the second half, I explore a challenge for my account of phasic recollection, which in turn helps make more vivid my proposal as well as the spectral analogy at the heart of it: Just as one can see regions behind one by looking in the direction of a mirror located in the same space in which one is, sometimes by re-encountering certain kinds of artworks now, past intervals or phases ‘behind one’ can be ‘made present’ in a way that the paper aims to make plain. I also explain to what extent phasic recollection might be understood as a form of mental time travel, and what the attendant phenomenology of ‘transportation’ involves.

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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:13 May 2020
Date of first online publication:28 April 2020
Date first made open access:13 May 2020

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