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Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination Hardcover – December 5, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Jan Assmann's work on cultural memory is essential for notions of memory and memorialization. I know of no modern scholarly study on collective memory and aspects relating to it, from Thucydides to modern Israel, from Genesis to modern Germany, that has not in some form drawn on Jan Assmann's theories on the relation between collective and cultural memory. In short, this book is an absolute classic, and will be invaluable to English-speaking scholars." - Susanna Elm, University of California at Berkeley

"More than canonical since its original publication in Germany, Cultural Memory and Early Civilization is one of the most important works of cultural analysis of the past two decades. Spanning cultural and media studies, sociology, ancient history, and numerous other fields, it has already underwritten volumes of research and theory in Europe. Its translation was long awaited, and will surely transform discourse in Anglophone scholarship as well. It is a genuine tour-de-force." - Jeffrey Olick, University of Virginia

Book Description

Now available to an English-speaking audience, this book presents a groundbreaking theoretical analysis of memory, identity, and culture. Dr. Assmann defines two theoretical concepts of cultural memory, and applies this theoretical framework to case studies of four specific cultures, concluding that memory can be a powerful and dynamic tool in shaping culture.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (December 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521763819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521763813
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,173,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Auerbach on March 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Assmann is a complex, eclectic, and brilliant scholar and this set of reflections is a more theoretical complement to his justly famous work on Egypt (well worth reading). In this 1992 book (only now translated into English) Assmann covers a lot of ground at a pretty high level, so what I would say is that this book is extremely worthwhile for anyone interested in the sociology and anthropology of cultural memory, and how it has been explored in thinkers like Weber, Scheler, Levi-Strauss, Halbwachs, and Geertz. Assmann's work stands proudly beside theirs, taking their insights and looking at them through the lens of ancient Egypt in addition to the Jews and Greece, productively. Egypt is the most novel contribution, at least to me.

Perhaps Assmann's own list of those he sees exploring similar anthropological is the best way to pinpoint this book: "Johann Gottfried Herder and Karl Marx, Jacob Burckhardt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Aby Warburg, Max Weber and Ernst Cassirer, Johan Huizinga and T. S. Eliot, Arnold Gehlen and A. L. Kroeber, Clifford Geertz, Jack Goody and Mary Douglas, Sigmund Freud and René Girard, and the list goes on and on."

Assmann has read voraciously and the connections he draws across those thinkers are rare and valuable.

I'd also like to compliment Cambridge University Press for making a scholastic ebook which is both:

(1) functional: hyperlinks for index and footnotes, all images and diagrams included and visible, reasonably good formatting
(2) affordable: pricing scholarly ebooks upwards of 50 bucks is ridiculous. I was very happy to buy this for the price of an average trade book.

I hope the trend continues.
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3 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Richard Blumberg on October 19, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Assmann is clearly a brilliant guy and an accomplished scholar, and the book is full of useful insights about how societal memory, passed down generation after generation, creates cultural identity. But those insights, on second examination, are never very surprising; they confirm what we suspect to be true, rather than revealing genuinely new ways of looking at culture and history. But the main problem I have with the book is that its perspective is limited to the Middle East, and more particularly to Egypt and those cultures heavily influenced by Egypt. I'm interested in ancient Indian cultures, in Chinese culture, in Persian/Iranian culture, and, to some much more limited extent, in the cultures of the Americas. None of those are covered in any sort of detail in this book, or, if they are mentioned, it is only by reference to a presumably normative Egyptian process.
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