The Rhetoric and Ideology of Public Monument
For the next paper, select a peace or war memorial or monument of your choice, and analyze it in the
following ways in order to prove your thesis: Is it a monument to peace or war? Each of which is worth
25 points, and will require between 1 ½ and 2 pages each; they are guides, not individual questions to be
answered. Your paragraphs should be coherent in supporting your thesis.
I. Kairos. For a public monument, there are three time zones: the war itself; the initiation of the
monument until its opening; today. A monument looks backward to a war that is over. For this section,
you need to research to find out the results of the war—was it a victory, a loss, or a tie? What
motivated the memorial? How was it received at the time? How is it judged today? We should also
know why you chose it. What in your life today attracts you to your choice?
II. Intentions. Monuments are inherently judicial in that they try to capture an attitude toward a
past event, but they are essentially, and by definition, epideictic or ceremonial. Therefore, their
purpose is to point to our highest values and praise the people who endorse those values. Being asked
to remember people implies that they are important. In addition, however, a memorial has a
deliberative message that can be intuited. As Aristotle said, “Sometimes to praise is to urge a course of
action.” What course of action does your memorial imply is necessary? In this section, you will discuss
the purposes of the memorial. Some of the intentions are explicit (as we can see from the Maya Lin
video); others, implicit.
III. Persuasion. In this section, analyze ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos is measured not by the
artist; but by the representation of the soldiers or citizens or victims. What message do we get about
the people or person celebrated or memorialized? As for logos, you can focus on all the written
material that surrounds the memorial—sometimes heavily inscribed, as in the Gallipoli monument; other
times, adjacent or surrounding the monument. The logos can also refer to the “facts of the memory,”
though they may be controversial. For pathos, you have a wide open window. Art is designed to have
an effect, and that effect on the viewer, participant, student, scholar should be carefully considered in
the design. (We hear Lin talk about what feelings she wants to evoke.) In this section, you can also
discuss how the monument makes you feel. A war memorial has a double message; it honors the soldiers
but calls us to peace at the same time. You decide which message you get from your memorial. Also,
does it inspire hope or fear (use Bloch)?
IV. Imagery and figuration. Unlike your last paper, the figuration won’t be primarily in language.
Indeed, we use sculpture when words are insufficient. Any monument will include figures, images of
humans; however, they will be transformed symbolically; they will be exaggerated to make a point. In
fact, they will be turned from people into symbols. Symbolism, in its ideal form, creates an image
beyond rhetoric or occasion. The symbol suggests an idea. Think of the Statue of Liberty, for instance.
If it works, that image will carry forth its message regardless of time and place. So symbolism is an
attempt to move beyond rhetoric. But it does not move beyond persuasion. It is still a sign and has
meaning, based on the audience, and the artist. Other natural objects may be heightened and renewed
too—animals, plants, flowers, and so on. On the other hand, as we see in the 9/11 Monument, shapes
themselves take on meaning. Of course, with Maya Lin’s work, you have the use of water. So in this
section, try to analyze the symbolic purposes of the shapes, materials, and representations of humans,
plants, or animals. You may need some research to understand the symbolism of certain imagery.
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