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CLASSICS 16SC: Memorials, Museums and Memory

The last time you walked past a public monument, did you stop to read the plaque (if there was one) or otherwise contemplate its meaning and commemorative purpose? Your answer may well reflect your familiarity with the terrain in which that monument stood. In any case, for various reasons we will want to discuss, monuments often struggle to convey the meanings intended, if indeed we can reconstruct those original intentions. This difficulty is especially true of monuments made in traditional form, yet more experimental forms are by no means safe from oblivion and indifference. Paradoxically, the longer a monument exists ¿ and some have lasted for millennia ¿ the further it is removed from its original context, a situation which engenders both problems of communication between creator and audience and at the same time rich histories, for objects too can have eventful life-histories.n In this course, both object biographies and their long-term communicatory challenges will be part of a broader discussion. Our task will be to explore the commemorative landscape, including our own campus ¿ established by grieving parents in 1891 with the goal of remembering their fifteen-year-old son, who had died of typhoid while travelling in Italy. Apart from the university per se, statues and a museum were central to the elder Stanfords¿ commemoration of Leland jr. (1868-84). nThrough the tragic Stanford family story and other case studies, we will rethink the very nature of collective memory. What forms has it taken? What difference does materiality make? Why do some scholars insist on a difference between monuments (often triumphalist in character) and memorials (typically more reflective and somber), and is that a feasible distinction in practice?nWe shall discuss such themes with reference to core readings. Beyond that, students will work in groups to focus consistently on selected histories, as determined by collective identities. Students will regularly contribute to class discussions on the basis of these specializations.nBy way of a final project, students will design a memorial of their own choosing. They will motivate their choice of what or whom they are commemorating; likewise they will explain their choice of medium, location and form. The success of these memorials will hinge, in large measure, on the thoughtfulness of their choices and ultimately their ability to engage with viewers. Students will present their evolving projects to each other for formal peer critique (itself graded). Final public presentations of these memorials will be part of the symposium in the final week. nThe course will be timely in several senses: the nationwide remembrance of September 11th, 2001 coincides with the first week of classes; the university celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2016; and more generally emerging technologies both offer and demand new approaches to public commemoration. Sophomore College course, applications required. Submit by April 5, 2016 at http://soco.stanford.edu .
Terms: Sum | Units: 2 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
Instructors: Parker, G. (PI)
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