Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America

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University of Chicago Press, Jul 30, 2010 - Art - 458 pages

In the past few decades, thousands of new memorials to executed witches, victims of terrorism, and dead astronauts, along with those that pay tribute to civil rights, organ donors, and the end of Communism have dotted the American landscape. Equally ubiquitous, though until now less the subject of serious inquiry, are temporary memorials: spontaneous offerings of flowers and candles that materialize at sites of tragic and traumatic death. In Memorial Mania, Erika Doss argues that these memorials underscore our obsession with issues of memory and history, and the urgent desire to express—and claim—those issues in visibly public contexts.

Doss shows how this desire to memorialize the past disposes itself to individual anniversaries and personal grievances, to stories of tragedy and trauma, and to the social and political agendas of diverse numbers of Americans. By offering a framework for understanding these sites, Doss engages the larger issues behind our culture of commemoration. Driven by heated struggles over identity and the politics of representation, Memorial Mania is a testament to the fevered pitch of public feelings in America today.



Scope of the Subject
Temporary Memorials and Contemporary Modes of Mourning
Terrorism Memorials and Security Narratives
Memorializing World War II and the Greatest Generation
Duluths Lynching Memorial and Issues of National Morality
Contesting American Identity in Contemporary Memorial Culture

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About the author (2010)

Erika Doss is an art historian whose books include Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism; Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy; Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America; and American Art of the 20th-21st Centuries. Doss is Distinguished Chair in the Edith O'Donnell Institute of Art History at the University of Texas, Dallas.

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