Memorials Matter: Bodies, Affect, and Environment at AmericanMemory Sites

Jennifer Ladino, Department of English

My project investigates how American memorials contribute to stories about war and national identity. I examine how memorial structures—often sculptures of human and/or animal forms— and the natural landscapes that surround them generate emotion (or affect) in individual tourists as well as on broader, collective scales. I seek support to conduct research at three sites—the Crazy Horse Memorial; its neighbor, Mt. Rushmore; and the World War II Memorial at San Francisco’s Presidio—and to write two new essays, which will lay the foundation for my second scholarly monograph, Memorials Matter.

Scholars from archeology, architecture, geography, history, and rhetoric are engaging in dynamic conversations about national memorials.My project brings an important ecocritical perspective to these conversations. Initially defined as the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment, ecocriticism has expanded to work with fields like cultural studies, critical theory, and animal studies, and to study a wider range of texts and environments. I situate my project as part of the field’s recent turn toward “material ecocriticism”, which theorizes physical environments and various kinds of matter, like human and animal bodies, in innovative ways.