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(Re)thinking the Memorial as a Place of Aesthetic Negotiation

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Abstract:

Public memorials are more than merely symbolic texts; they create experiences which visitors are invited to engage aesthetically. Together, memorials' symbolic meaning and the aesthetic experience they inspire present individuals with embodied arguments regarding civic duty and responsibility that guide not only what to think, but more importantly, how to think about the people and events they commemorate. (Re)thinking public memorials as places of aesthetic negotiation is an attempt to examine both the cognitive and affective efficacy of memorials as well as the reasoning processes that guide what memorial audiences can critically reflect on. Aesthetic negotiation is conceptualised as a form of embodied reasoning during which individuals assess the political significance of their immediate aesthetic experiences within the wider socio-cultural world. The Columbine Memorial, which commemorates the 1999 murder of twelve students and one teacher by two classmates, is analysed to determine the extent the memorial provokes aesthetic negotiation. I conclude that the Columbine Memorial's rhetorical symbolism constrains aesthetic negotiation, by concentrating on the private, rather than public, realm.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14735780802696351

Publication date: 2009-04-01

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