Cover image for Carried to the wall : American memory and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Title:
Carried to the wall : American memory and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Author:
Hass, Kristin Ann, 1965-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [1998]

©1998
Physical Description:
x, 188 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
Making a memory of war : building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- Discovering the memory of bodies : a history of American war memorials -- Seashell monuments and cities for the silent : American funerary traditions -- The things : remembering bodies and remaking the nation -- "You are not forgotten" : mourning for America.
ISBN:
9780520204133

9780520213173
Format :
Book

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DS559.83.W18 H33 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

On May 9, 1990, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a ring with letter, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, a baseball, a photo album, an ace of spades, and a pie were some of the objects left at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. For Kristin Hass, this eclectic sampling represents an attempt by ordinary Americans to come to terms with a multitude of unnamed losses as well as to take part in the ongoing debate of how this war should be remembered. Hass explores the restless memory of the Vietnam War and an American public still grappling with its commemoration. In doing so it considers the ways Americans have struggled to renegotiate the meanings of national identity, patriotism, community, and the place of the soldier, in the aftermath of a war that ruptured the ways in which all of these things have been traditionally defined. Hass contextualizes her study of this phenomenon within the history of American funerary traditions (in particular non-Anglo traditions in which material offerings are common), the history of war memorials, and the changing symbolic meaning of war. Her evocative analysis of the site itself illustrates and enriches her larger theses regarding the creation of public memory and the problem of remembering war and the resulting causalities--in this case not only 58,000 soldiers, but also conceptions of masculinity, patriotism, and working-class pride and idealism.


Summary

On May 9, 1990, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a ring with letter, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, a baseball, a photo album, an ace of spades, and a pie were some of the objects left at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. For Kristin Hass, this eclectic sampling represents an attempt by ordinary Americans to come to terms with a multitude of unnamed losses as well as to take part in the ongoing debate of how this war should be remembered. Hass explores the restless memory of the Vietnam War and an American public still grappling with its commemoration. In doing so it considers the ways Americans have struggled to renegotiate the meanings of national identity, patriotism, community, and the place of the soldier, in the aftermath of a war that ruptured the ways in which all of these things have been traditionally defined. Hass contextualizes her study of this phenomenon within the history of American funerary traditions (in particular non-Anglo traditions in which material offerings are common), the history of war memorials, and the changing symbolic meaning of war. Her evocative analysis of the site itself illustrates and enriches her larger theses regarding the creation of public memory and the problem of remembering war and the resulting causalities--in this case not only 58,000 soldiers, but also conceptions of masculinity, patriotism, and working-class pride and idealism.


Author Notes

Kristin Ann Hass is Lecturer in the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Kristin Ann Hass is Lecturer in the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

Haas sees the genesis of the American people's responses to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- the Wall -- as coming from the old Protestant traditions of the general memorial, from the newer ethnic, Catholic tradition of memorials to celebrate the individual, and finally as part of a new phenomenon based on the context of the unpopular war in Vietnam and the ambivalence assigned to it as a heroic effort. One response emerges clearly: the Wall evokes intensely personal feelings in a substantial portion of those who visit. Some of the items left can be explained only as representing that personal meaning. Haas properly avoids attempting to analyze the individual meaning--protest, personal, public, or familial--of the objects themselves. She does, however, posit that they are "gifts," part of the conversation about the Vietnam war and its losses. Moreover, she places the objects in categories--individual memorials, community and patriotism, mediations between the living and the dead, shared experiences, and explicit political speech. She concludes that "new memorial practices" have emerged in this story, and they persist, most notably, in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing. In sum, an arresting, touching, disturbing, and profound reflection on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. All levels. C. W. Haury; Piedmont Virginia Community College


Choice Review

Haas sees the genesis of the American people's responses to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- the Wall -- as coming from the old Protestant traditions of the general memorial, from the newer ethnic, Catholic tradition of memorials to celebrate the individual, and finally as part of a new phenomenon based on the context of the unpopular war in Vietnam and the ambivalence assigned to it as a heroic effort. One response emerges clearly: the Wall evokes intensely personal feelings in a substantial portion of those who visit. Some of the items left can be explained only as representing that personal meaning. Haas properly avoids attempting to analyze the individual meaning--protest, personal, public, or familial--of the objects themselves. She does, however, posit that they are "gifts," part of the conversation about the Vietnam war and its losses. Moreover, she places the objects in categories--individual memorials, community and patriotism, mediations between the living and the dead, shared experiences, and explicit political speech. She concludes that "new memorial practices" have emerged in this story, and they persist, most notably, in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing. In sum, an arresting, touching, disturbing, and profound reflection on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. All levels. C. W. Haury; Piedmont Virginia Community College