Lecture discusses distinction between history and memory.
By Rachel Cooper
You buy souvenirs at the end of a vacation because the vacation is slipping away and you want something to hold onto as a reminder of that time, said a sociology professor to an audience of about 50 Sept. 27 at Northeast Lakeview College.
The same can be said about society during rapid change, Dr. Brittany Chozinski said. Her talk, which was a part of the 2016 Arts and Sciences Fall Cultural Showcase, covered theories about sociology, philosophy and history related to nostalgia.
“For us, nostalgia is triggered when we have some sort of discontentment with present situations,” Chozinski said. Society can even be nostalgic for a time period they didn’t live through. An example is that people enjoy going to a ’50s-themed diner who didn’t live through that time period.
Nostalgia is most prevalent in young adulthood, then it isn’t as bad in middle age, but then “when you’re old, you get real nostalgic again,” Chozinski said.
Swiss doctor Johanas Hoffer in 1688 described nostalgia as a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause,” she said. Hoffer observed the concept of nostalgia in Swiss mercenaries who were abroad and wanted to go home.
His explanation for nostalgia was “eardrum and brain damage from cowbells,” which was “probably not accurate,” Chozinski said.
“The last time you felt homesick or nostalgic, that’s what you were experiencing; it was a demon,” she joked. Nostalgia is from the Greek words ‘nostos’, which means longing to return home, and ‘algos’, the pain that accompanies the longing.
The French phrase “fin de siécle” means “turn of the century.”
“At any point where a century is ending, people have a tendency to reflect back on the previous century as well as look forward with new hope or perhaps fear, anxiety, toward the century that is quickly approaching,” Chozinski said.
In the 20th to the 21st century, theorists became concerned with the concept of “the end of history.”
Francis Fukuyama wrote the book “The End of History and the Last Man” in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down toward the end of the Cold War. “He thought we were seeing the final triumph of Western liberal democracy,” Chozinski said.
Chozinski quoted a passage from Fukuyama’s book: “In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. I can feel in myself and see in others around me, a powerful nostalgia for the time when history existed.”
Humanities Professor Tony Lack asked if Chozinski could give an example of what the end of art and philosophy meant. “It doesn’t just mean that people stopped making art and writing books.”
“We start to see a simulation of things as opposed to new creations,” Chozinski said, using movies as an example. “When we read about that superhero for the first time, now we get to see it on the screen, and it brings us back to that point in our life when we were 5 or 6 years old,” Chozinski said.
Literary critic Geoffrey Hartman believed technology causes history to be written as events happen.
“We record everything,” Chozinski said. “I could probably figure out what you had for lunch today or the last time you had Starbucks if you gave me your Instagram.”
The more we record, the less we have to remember, Chozinski said.
An example of this is when an audience shoots photos and videos during a concert. This is called “anticipatory nostalgia,” she said.
“Rapid change in society is fed by technological change,” Chozinski said. “By remembering an earlier era, we are trying to slam on the brakes.”
The film “Gattaca” is 5:30-9 p.m. Wednesday in Room 109 of the library.
Chozinski, philosophy Professor Brandon Gillespie and Lack will lead a discussion after the film.
Lack will lead the session “Posthuman Dignity” 1:40-2:55 p.m. Thursday in Room 201 of the student commons.