The Argument of Public Monuments


This assignment has been adapted from one designed by Renee Shea of Bowie State University.

Identify and state the major argument the monument or memorial is making.  What is the evidence that supports this argument?  (Consider explicit as well as implicit).

Your analysis must address the following questions:

1.  What does the monument memorialize?

2.  What is the geographical space of the monument?  The psychological space?  Is it sacred space?  How does it fit into the surrounding landscape?

3.  What is the history of the monument?  (This is especially important when there has been some controversy.)

4.  What are the visual elements of the monument?  Include sculpture and painting and natural landscape.  Pay particular attention to whether the monument is representational or abstract or both.  (Include images in the appendices.)

5.  What written text or texts is/are part of the monument?  Analyze them rhetorically.  (Include a copy/copies in the appendices.)  What was their original context?  Who wrote them?  Are they metaphorical?

6.  How do the visual elements and the written text interact?

7.  How does the monument appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos?

8.  Is the monument a metaphor?  Explain.

9.  How does the viewer experience the monument?

10.  What does this monument ask the viewer to remember or to commemorate?

11.  Evaluate its effectiveness as an argument.  Does it challenge, support, or defend a specific understanding of the event?

You may want to consider reading/researching:

-interviews with designer/artist

-poetry/songs about it and/or in response to it

-how is/was it funded?  (Consider the implications of public vs. private funding.)



This assignment also requires a creative response to the memorial.  Consider what aspect(s) you wish to emphasize and the medium in which you will do so.


-an original apostrophe

-a mash-up culled from artist, viewers, poets, victims, victors, survivors, historians, etc.

-a multi-media video




-conduct an interview with a person in some way connected to it

-alternative monument /supplement- how YOU would have approached the commission

-letter/monologue from person commemorated by the memorial


The link below is from the American Icons series.  It is a testament to the power of memorials.


Thinking about Monuments and Appropriate Resources MonumentMemorials

The following sources are excellent background readings.
Paul Goldberger, Paul. 2011. “Shaping the Void.” The New Yorker, September 12.

Kennicott, Philip. 2011. “MLK Memorial Review: Stuck between the Conceptual and Literal.” The Washington Post. August 26.,
Lin, Maya. 2000. “Making the Memorial.” New York Review of Books, November 2.

Morello, Carol and Ed O’Keefe. 2012. “For King Memorial, a Fix Etched in Stone.” The Washington Post. January 14, A1, A17.

Edward Rothstein. 2011. “A Mirror of Greatness, Blurred.” New York Times. August 25.

“History, Memory and Monuments: An Overview of the Scholarly Literature on Commemoration” by Kirk Savage

Author of Monument Wars and Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in 19th Century America


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