10-10-2013 Kirk Savage
Date: Thursday, October 10, 4:30-6:00, Berger Gallery (207 College Hall), Duquesne University.
Title: "The Corpse and the Name: The Civil War and the Origins of Modern Commemoration"
Presenter: Kirk Savage (Professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh)
Presentation: A talk about the traditions of commemoration and nationhood followed by an open discussion with the audience.
Abstract: Among Alexander Gardner's shocking photographs of Antietam in 1862 - the first ever in the U.S. to depict battlefield corpses - one image stands out both for its pathos and its puzzling artfulness: A Contrast: Federal Buried, Rebel Unburied, Where they fell at the Battle of Antietam. With its odd arrangement of a neglected corpse next to a freshly marked grave, it seems deliberately designed to raise urgent issues about the fate of the war dead, how they would live or die in the memory of those who survived them.
Using Gardner's photograph as a springboard, this paper will examine the anonymity of wartime death and its consequences for later commemoration. It was only after the U.S. Civil War that "modern" naming practices in commemoration first became commomplace in the western world. As bodies disappeared by the thousands, many though not all would eventually be replaced by names - names published in newspaper lists of the dead, in memorial volumes after the war, on tablets affixed to town halls, and ultimately on freestanding monuments, cenotaphs in cemeteries and town squares that identified the local dead often buried far away and often in unnamed graves.
Juxtaposing Contrast with the twin phenomena of private cenotaphs and public monuments, I will argue that the naming of the dead was a highly contested field, out of which emerged, eventually, a new system of commemoration that laid the groundwork for a powerful new model of nationhood.
Bio: Kirk Savage is professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been writing on war memorials and public monuments for thirty years. His two award-winning books are Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, 1997) and Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape (UC Press, 2009). He has also written several op-ed pieces for the Washington Post as well as article-length studies on topics ranging from the image of the horse in battle to the therapeutic turn in commemoration. He is currently at work on two large-scale projects, a pacifist history of war memorials in the U.S. and an "anarchist" history of the Cherokee frontier and its aftermath. He keeps an on again-off again blog at: http://www.kirksavage.pitt.edu.
All interested faculty, graduate students, and other parties are invited. Refreshments will be served.
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