A Body of Texts: Memento and Mētis

The 2000 neo-noir film Memento presents the case of Leonard Shelby, who, as the result of an attack that also ostensibly caused the death of his wife, can make no new memories (a real affliction called anterograde amnesia). Because of his condition, Leonard's obsessive quest to find his attacker must be carried out through an archive of handwritten notes, Polaroid photos, maps, and, mostly strikingly, tattoos. These mementos constitute a bodily archive which, in the absence of memory, records and affirms Leonard's concept of self. This talk examines how Leonard's separation from history and reliance upon his bodily archive position him as a figure of mētis. Leonard is perpetually thrust into a kairotic moment in which he must rely completely on his mētic ability to weave his assemblage of artifacts and situational context together into a coherent whole. In essence, Leonard has off-loaded his memory onto the tattoos and fragmented texts that constitute his diffused body, making him an ahistorical mētic figure in a perpetual present.