Public Feeling in America
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.
List of Figures
1. Statue Mania to Memorial Mania: Scope of the Subject
2. Grief: Temporary Memorials and Contemporary Modes of Mourning
3. Fear: Terrorism Memorials and Security Narratives
4. Gratitude: Memorializing World War II and the "Greatest Generation"
5. Shame: Duluth’s Lynching Memorial and Issues of National Morality
6. Anger: Contesting American Identity in Contemporary Memorial Culture
“Memorial Mania is an important and much-needed book, one that complements the existing literature on memorials with richness and originality, and also forges new territory. Doss’s excellent and highly polemical critique of its resurgence furthers one of American studies’ most noteworthy traditions.”
“With its contemporary focus and astonishingly wide range of examples, Erika Doss’s Memorial Mania…considers not simply how commemorative practices reflect the feelings of Americans, but also how commemoration has become a crucial medium through which public feeling is structured, expressed, and archived. . . . What makes Doss’s book so valuable is that it reveals the range, complexity, and depth of emotion produced by memorial acts.”
Popular Culture Association: Ray and Pat Browne Award