The museum emerged in the eighteenth century as a powerful tool for the establishment and promotion of national identity and memory through the construction of narratives about the history of the nation. The fact that museums create narratives has prompted scholars to treat the museum as a text, opening up the possibility of ‘reading’ the museum alongside other texts. In developing a framework for such a study, postmodern theory plays an important role, given the current view that history itself is a text. Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence is an example of such a framework in action. Using the museum as setting (a ‘literary museum’), and structuring his novel in such a way as to mimic and parody traditional museum strategies of display (the ‘novel-as-museum’), Pamuk can critique universalising narratives about the nation and human civilisation, and instead embrace the heterogeneity of personal identity and personal memory.
Keywords: museums, Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence, novel-as-museum, literary museum, memory, metanarratives, identity