Memento: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


1st Edition

Edited by Andrew Kania


192 pages

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pub: 2009-05-18
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Within a short space of time, the film Memento has already been hailed as a modern classic. Memorably narrated in reverse, from the perspective of Leonard Shelby, the film’s central character, it follows Leonard’s chaotic and visceral quest to discover the identity of his wife’s killer and avenge her murder, despite his inability to form new long-term memories.

This is the first book to explore and address the myriad philosophical questions raised by the film, concerning personal identity, free will, memory, knowledge, and action. It also explores problems in aesthetics raised by the film through its narrative structure, ontology, and genre. Beginning with a helpful introduction that places the film in context and maps out its complex structure, specially commissioned chapters examine the following topics:

  • memory, emotion, and self-consciousness
  • agency, free will, and responsibility
  • personal identity
  • narrative and popular cinema
  • the film genre of neo-noir
  • Memento and multimedia

Including annotated further reading at the end of each chapter, Memento is essential reading for students interested in philosophy and film studies.


'A fascinating collection of essays, from a number of notable hands, on philosophical issues raised by one of the most mind-bending of recent films, Christopher Nolan's Memento. Anyone interested in what film might teach us about the nature of memory, self, knowledge, and narration will here find a rich source of reflections. The essays are admirably introduced by the editor, who also provides invaluable signposting to the structure and content of this most enigmatic of cinematic productions.' – Jerrold Levinson, University of Maryland, USA

'Memento is a remarkable narrative achievement and this book of philosophical essays - more conventional in structure than the film I'm glad to say - brings into sharp relief the ideas on persons, their mental and moral resources, that inform the film. Kania has chosen his contributors well; here analytic philosophy, so often portrayed as insensitive to artistic and imaginative aspirations, is very light on its feet.' – Gregory Currie, University of Nottingham, UK

'[These essays offer] . . .clear, accessible, and engaging introductions to basic philosophical questions and concepts in a way that enriches our understanding of Memento and philosophy both. . . The range of topics, the dialogue the essays themselves foster, and the genuine philosophical light shed by them will, as Hanley says, not only "get you thinking" but "keep you thinking." This collection is a good choice for undergraduate courses in philosophy and is accessible enough to be of interest to philosophically minded fans of Memento or film more generally.' – Metapsychology

Table of Contents

Introduction Andrew Kania 1. Moral Monster or Responsible Person? Memento’s Leonard as a Case Study in Defective Agency Michael McKenna 2. Leonard’s System: Why Doesn’t It Work? Joseph Levine 3. The Feel of the World: Exograms, Habits, and the Confusion of Types of Memory John Sutton 4. The Value of Memory: Reflections on Memento Raymond Martin 5. Memento and Personal Identity: Do We Have it Backwards? Richard Hanley 6. Memento and the Phenomenology of Comprehending Motion Picture Narration Noël Carroll 7. Reconfiguring the Past: Memento and Neo-Noir Deborah Knight and George McKnight 8. What is Memento? Ontology and Interpretation in Mainstream Film Andrew Kania Index

About the Editor

Andrew Kania is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Trinity University, San Antonio, USA. His principle research is in the philosophy of music, literature, and film. He is the editor (with Theodore Gracyk) of The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music.

About the Series

Philosophers on Film

'The true significance of film for philosophy, and of philosophy for film, cannot be established in abstract or general terms. It can only be measured in and through individual philosophers' attempts to account for their experience of specific films. This series promises to provide a productive context for that indispensable enterprise.' – Stephen Mulhall, Fellow and Reader in Philosophy, New College, Oxford

Film is increasingly used to introduce and discuss key topics and problems in philosophy, whilst some films raise important philosophical questions of their own. Yet until now, dependable resources for those studying and teaching philosophy and film have been limited. Philosophers on Film answers this growing need and is the first series of its kind. Each volume assembles a team of international contributors who explore a single film in depth. Beginning with an introduction by the editor, each specially-commissioned chapter discusses a key aspect of the film in question.

Additional features include a biography of the director and suggestions for further reading, making the series ideal for anyone studying philosophy, film and anyone with a general interest in the philosophical dimensions of cinema.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / General
PHILOSOPHY / Mind & Body