Textual memory: The making of the Titanic's literary archive

Peter Middleton, Tim Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


James Cameron's film, Titanic , depended on both a recent spate of novels and short stories about the ship, and an earlier diverse archive. We argue that a case study of the cultural memory of the Titanic , alongside the changing modes by which the sinking is represented, can reveal more general traits of our tacit understanding of what now constitutes both history and the past. Through discussion of Cameron's film, E.J. Pratt's poem, Walter Lord's documentary narrative, A Night to Remember , and novels about the ship by Cussler, Steele, Finney, Bainbridge and Bass, we show that contemporary popular culture imagines the past as a traumatic memory to which access can be gained through a technics of memory and representation which will reveal it as a witnessable location in time and space. We suggest that the reliance on models of memory needs to be questioned both ethically and through the study of narrative practices, because the willingness of readers and viewers to go on being there as the Titanic sails and sinks again and again can be read as an image of how it is actually history which sinks late modernity's representation of the past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-526
Number of pages20
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2001


  • Titanic
  • history
  • fiction
  • time
  • memory
  • space


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