Understanding Memory Media: Image, Material Culture, and Space

Course Description: 

Memory is now everywhere in scholarship and in popular culture alike. Memory studies as a field and memory as a concept connect a range of disciplines from humanities through social sciences to natural sciences.

Within the field of memory studies, this course will focus on the media of memory, specifically visual and material culture as well as space. The concept of memory inevitably crops up when interpreting any cultural product from the past—be they medieval documents or artworks, nineteenth-century literature, architecture and urban space, photographs, movies, or even environmental or natural features—and all these can be understood as media of memory. Media are essential in the creation of memories; they not only reflect the perception of the past by individuals and groups but also determine how we remember in manifold ways. What is more, the same object often contributes to the creation of diverse memories and memory communities who add new interpretations to the original meanings. The course will examine how different media are used and re-used in various socio-cultural contexts, and what they tell about the given community and society.

To grasp the fundamentals of memory studies, the course will cover the main definitions and theories of memory as well as the current trends in memory research and its intersections with media, visual, and material culture studies. In addition, we will examine how the concept of memory relates to history and cultural heritage by analyzing selected pieces of secondary literature and case studies, examples of visual and material culture from various periods of history from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. We will look at examples of how the media changed across time—from paintings, sculptures, and handwriting through printing to digital media and the internet. The course entails both classroom sessions and extramural visits to memory sites of Budapest such as the Jewish Quarter, Memento Park, and the Farkasréti Cemetery.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will

  • have a basic understanding of the main theories and concepts in memory studies, the most important turning points and trends
  • develop an ability to critically read and understand theoretical literature in the field
  • develop an ability to apply these concepts and theories in case study analysis
  • develop their skills to work with images and material culture as sources for research
  • have an understanding of how they can incorporate memory studies into their own research
  • improve their skills in presenting their arguments in group discussions, their research and results in a concise and scholarly manner in oral and written form

  • improve their skills in presenting their arguments in group discussions, their research and results in a concise and scholarly manner in oral and written form

Students are required to


  • attend the classes regularly (10%; maximum 3 sessions can be missed, and students missing a class should communicate it to the course instructor)
  • read the mandatory literature assigned for each class (maximum 20 pages per session) and take active part at the discussions (20%)
  • prepare and present one of the mandatory readings for the group (20%)
  • choose a case study relevant for any theories or aspects discussed during the course, and – after confirming it with the course instructor –give a 15-minute-long presentation with slides for the group (20%)
  • following that, write up the same case study in a 2000-3000 word long paper, demonstrating your ability to apply the theories and concepts discussed during the course. It should be prepared according to scholarly standards, with footnotes and bibliography (30%)