The Feel of the Past

Sartre on Memory and Imagination

in Sartre Studies International
Kathleen Lennon Professor Emerita of Philosophy, University of Hull, UK

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This article addresses the distinction which Sartre draws between memory and imagination. The article is in two parts. In the first part it is suggested that, in common with the distinction he draws between imagining and perceiving, the separation of memory and imagination is undermined by Sartre's own phenomenology. Memories are part of the family of imaginings to which Sartre directs us. Nonetheless, in the second part of the article, Sartre's distinction is revisited. The working of imagination in memory does not mean that we are making up our past. Utilising Barthes’ discussion, in Camera Lucida it is argued that memory provides a distinctive relation to our past, which makes evident to us what it is to live a life in time.

Contributor Notes

Kathleen Lennon is professor emerita of philosophy at the University of Hull, UK. She writes on the imagination, expression, embodiment, phenomenology, gender, belonging, and old age. Her books include Imagination and the Imaginary (Routledge 2015) and, most recently, Gender Theory in Troubled Times (Polity 2020).

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Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture


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