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Marking the Mind: A History of Memory (2008)

Kurt Danziger


Memory is one of the few psychological concepts with a truly ancient lineage. Presenting a history of the interrelated changes in memory tasks, memory technology and ideas about memory from antiquity to the late twentieth century, this book confronts psychology's 'short present' with its 'long past'. Kurt Danziger, one of the most influential historians of psychology of recent times, traces long-term continuities from ancient mnemonics and tools of inscription to modern memory experiments and computer storage. He explores historical discontinuities, showing how different kinds of memory became prominent at different times, and examines these changes in the context of specific themes including the question of truth in memory, distinctions between kinds of memory, the project of memory experimentation and the physical localization and conceptual location of memory. Danziger's unique approach provides a historical perspective for understanding varieties of reproduction, narratives of the self and short-term memory.


"In this amazing historical treatise on the concept of memory, Danziger (York Univ., Canada) offers a materialist perspective on how memory tasks, technologies, and views about memory have developed from antiquity to the present...The writing is impeccable--even the copius annotated bibliographic notes at the end of each chapter make excellent reading. Anyone interested in the psychology of human learning, memory, and cognition must read this book. Essential..." - G.C. Gamst, CHOICE

"Required reading for all cognitive psychologists, this book is also a treasure trove of intellectual gourmandize for historians, philosophers, anthropologists, physicians, linguists, classicists and almost any historically minded lay readers willing to sample nourishing, fascinating, mind-stretching fare." - Michael Wertheimer, Memory Studies

"This book is wide in scope and impressive in its scholarship and erudition... a wonderful book, a success on all levels... Marking the Mind is essential reading for anyone with a strong interest in the study of memory, from any of its many possible perspectives. Rarely have I been so glad to have read a book." - Henry L. Roediger III, PsycCRITIQUES

In the world of contemporary academia, Danziger’s work is unique. It blends immense knowledge of the history (and pre-history) of psychological research with likewise immense knowledge of psychology’s conceptual and cultural history; it combines discussion of empirical experimentation with its discourse analysis; and it draws on registers of historical erudition and philosophical acumen unusual in many human sciences and very rare in psychology. In today’s psychology, Kurt Danziger appears like one of the small number of scholars from ancient Athens who, after Greece was defeated, were able continue their work in Rome, reminding the Romans of a civilization so different from theirs." - Jens Brockmeier, Theory & Psychology

“The book contains much more than psychology and it deserves to be read widely: by psychologists but also by historians of the human sciences and by any academics interested in memory, whatever their disciplinary allegiance. It has all the qualities we have come to associate with Danziger’s work: it is scholarly, thought-provoking and subtle. In short, it is a fine book.” – Alan Collins, History of the Human Sciences