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Commemoration in America

Essays on Monuments, Memorialization, and Memory
Edited by David Gobel and Daves Rossell

BUY Paper · 356 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813933733 · $35.00 · Sep 2013
BUY Cloth · 356 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813933726 · $75.00 · Sep 2013
BUY Ebook · 356 pp. · ISBN 9780813934334 · $32.50 · Sep 2013

Commemoration lies at the poetic, historiographic, and social heart of human community. It is how societies define themselves and is central to the institution of the city. Addressing the complex ways that monuments in the United States have been imagined, created, and perceived from the colonial period to the present, Commemoration in America is a wide-ranging volume that focuses on the role of remembrance and memorialization in American urban life. The volume’s contributors are drawn from a spectrum of disciplines—social and urban history, urban planning, architecture, art history, preservation, and architectural history—and take a broad view of commemoration. In addition to the making of traditional monuments, the essays explore such commemorative acts as building preservation, biography, portraiture, ritual performance, street naming, and the planting of trees.

Providing an overview of American memorialization and the impulses behind it, Commemoration in America emphasizes a universal tendency for individuals and groups to use monuments to define their contemporary social identity and to construct historical narratives. The volume shows that while commemorative acts and objects affect the community in fundamental ways, their meaning is always multivalent and conflicted, attesting to both triumphs and tragedies. Constituting a vital part of both individual and national identity, commemoration’s contradictions strike at the core of American identity and speak to the importance of remembrance in the construction of our diverse national cultural landscape.

Contributors: Jhennifer A. Amundson, Judson University * Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina State University Libraries * Thomas J. Campanella, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill * Glenn T. Eskew, Georgia State University * Glenn Forley, Parsons / The New School for Design * Sally Greene, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill * Alison K. Hoagland, Michigan Technological University * Lynne Horiuchi, University of California, Berkeley * Ellen M. Litwicki, SUNY Fredonia * David Lowenthal, University College London * Mark A. Peterson, University of California, Berkeley * Richard M. Sommer, University of Toronto * Dell Upton, University of California, Los Angeles


The diverse archive and restorative interpretive practices of this collecion accomplish profound cultural work by centering complexity rather than fixity, polysemy instead of foreclosure. Scholars should attend to its critique of contemporary monument culture, as well as its learned analysis of the built environment that provides everyday life with both textures and texts for interpretation.

Journal of American Culture

This book addresses the challenges in our time to create places for public memory with a depth and breadth that is impressive. It goes beyond the parochial books and articles to create a thorough examination of this vital subject—from traditions of mnemonics to how we wish as a society to be remembered at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Ralph Muldrow, College of Charleston

This thorough and professionally written book will inform readers of various backgrounds and pull them from one chapter to the next with unique perspectives on familiar topics, which are clearly explained and discussed. Footnotes and an extensive bibliography provide information for further insight and analysis.


[These case studies] interrogate the nature of monumentality and the heavy hand of social control in remembering travesty, triumph, and trauma. Taken as a whole, they sggest the field's deep ambivalence about the relationship between memory and power....Instructiors looking for an introductory reading on American memorialization might refer to Dell Upton's [essay]....[and] Lynne Horiuchi makes first-rate use of visual archives in her treatment of articulations of cultural memory within the Japanese internment camps.

The Public Historian

About the Author(s): 

David Gobel and Daves Rossell are Professors of Architectural History at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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