A conceptual exploration of the monument in the United States since the Civil War
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This dissertation offers a critical history of the concept of monument in the United States from the Civil War to the present day. It is premised on the assumption that understanding the discursive and material dimensions of such categories is necessary in order to recognise their historicity and capacity for change. Focusing on six key episodes across the twentieth century, the dissertation explores how various artists, architects, and memorial associations, adopted the concept of the monument to pursue specific social and political goals. It takes the architectural debates surrounding monumentality in the 1940s as a starting point and proceeds to examine five further instances in which the concept has been historically framed. These include Frederick William Sievers’s Monument to Matthew Fontaine Maury (1929), Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk (1963/9), Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus (2019), and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C. (1955-2001). A further chapter explores the status of the monument in the mid-1960s with a particular focus on how artists associated with minimalism drew upon past monument forms in their work, and the legacy of this interaction. Throughout, I consider how much analytical weight the concept of the monument actually shoulders. I address the extent to which it is beholden to past definitions and forms, and explore how the study of the monument as a conceptual construct might highlight its critical and innovative potential. At a moment when the monument has become subject to widespread polemic, these issues have become all the more crucial. Reviewing the historical record, this dissertation demonstrates how the monument has operated across multiple discourses and suggests that the concept’s authority stems largely from its polyvalence.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2027-05-21
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 21st May 2027
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