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Plague Memory

Courtesy Ingrid Norton

Spring/Summer 2020

By Ingrid Norton

Anyone in the nineteenth century and their elders would have carried a visceral memory of bereavements, deprivations and survivals during lethal epidemics, and I am interested in the role of this kind of memory not for its practical value but for its spiritual and psychological effects. One who has lived with death and disease as close companions may be less undone by their reappearance. . . .

I don’t mean to romanticize the past and its privations. They interest me only because they open up possibilities for the future. Knowing what’s come before us can provide a sense of resilience, of larger arcs and survivals that extend beyond our individual lifetimes. Knowing the past also reminds us how different things have been in other eras, and not so long ago—and if the values of the past were different, those of the future can be also. . . .

From Quarantine Journal No. 2, The Point, March 22, 2020,
Ingrid Norton (MTS ’16) lives in New York City and is working on a novel. She is a doctoral student in American literature at Princeton University. Her last essay for Harvard Divinity Bulletin, “C.E. Morgan Takes the Reins,” appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue.

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