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ABOUT The World ...  

Par Claude Chastagner, professeur d'anglais à l'Université Paul Valéry à Montpellier.

 Down Memory Lane Inc. - A visit to Graceland

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Sites of memory are ambiguous places. They would not if we knew better what to expect of them, if we all agreed on what memory is. But we don't. So the ambiguity remains, which I would like to explore. Or perhaps should I say, to be honest, that it is my own ambiguous relation with these sites that I wish to fathom. What do these places offer? Intimacy to be shared among thousands or universality, provided we can make it ours? What do they relate to? Generations, genders, ethnic groups, social classes?

What are visitors looking for? Which personal, local or universal history are they striving to recapture? With what intent? What is the nature of the interplay that takes place between sites of memory and those who remember?
Such places appear more like frames, empty vessels waiting to be filled with our personal longings, desires, fears and griefs. Places of infinite possibilities one can invest at will. 

Obviously, they do not have a life of their own nor an intrisic value, they only assume shape through our own passions. Or do they? However hard we try to make sense of their materiality, the stakes are elsewhere. The purpose of this paper is to investigate them.

Rock music is a particularly fit context for this investigation. Forty years old today, rock music has, belatedly, come of age. And as many forty-year-olds, it has started to inquire about its roots and explore its memory. A Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has recently been set up in Cleveland to celebrate the seminal artists who can boast 25 years or more of musical activity. It is hosted by the Rock & Roll Museum which opened in 1994 and was intended both as a teaching tool and a place of entertainment.

 It organises field trips to the sites where the music (and the legend) was born: New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta, Jamaica etc. Twenty five years after the original, a Woodstock II Festival took place in August 1994 while the legendary Sam Phillips Sun Studios of Memphis, where Elvis Presley recorded his early hits, have recently been rebuilt. More telling perhaps is the increasing number of courses on rock history offered by American and European universities. Rock music has definitely set out for its past. Among the various places of rock's memory currently available, I chose Graceland, a microcosm whose study may yield a few interesting facts about the relationship America has with its memory.


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° Rubrique About The World