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PWR 2VKA: The Rhetoric of Public Monuments and Memorials

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Dr. Kinsey discusses the course PWR 2VKA.

Catalog Number: PWR 2VKA

Instructor: Valerie Kinsey

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement


Whether they be tourist destinations, painful reminders of tragic events, or little more than stone or steel decoration, public monuments constitute made artifacts that reveal both explicit and implied values of those who design, fund, support, and visit them. So, how do public monuments “speak” or stand for a version of the past? Who speaks in public monuments, and how do monuments help states discursively maintain power? Whose bodies, voices, and values are unspoken in public monuments?

This course invites students to consider the ways memories - notions of the past - are formed and maintained for rhetorical purposes in the present by looking at public monuments. Specifically, this course invites students to examine how notions of race, gender, and nationality are represented, elided, or complicated in public monuments. While students may elect to examine a geographically distant monument, together, we’ll visit sites of public memory on our own campus and consider the notion of Stanford University as memorial.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) After conducting research, you will propose an investigation into a compelling problem related to the design, production or reception of a particular public monument. A few possible options include: the memorial to Crazy Horse, Rumors of War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Aids Memorial Quilt, Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Rosie the Riveter World War II HomeFront.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) After receiving feedback and conducting additional research, you will contextualize and revise your proposals into either an academic paper situated in a discipline or a long-form journalism style piece for the public(s) impacted by the monument.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) Depending on the aims of the project you’ve proposed, your final oral presentation will address either a particular scholarly audience or a research talk to an impacted public. All presenters must weave supporting visuals into their presentations

Genre/Modes Assignment

(Mood Board with Artist’s Statement) This final course assignment asks you to creatively either (1) reimagine your case study by revisioning an existing monument or memorial or (2) begin the design process for a new monument or memorial. To communicate your vision for the project, you’ll assemble a series of digital images on a mood board. The mood board will be submitted with a statement explaining the medium, location, inspiration, design, rationale, and purpose of the revisioned or new monument or memorial.