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CMNS 487: Special Topics: Collective Memory and Public Discourse

Course overview

This course explores the place of collective memory in culture and communications. The study of collective memory goes beyond the simple notion that memories are recollections of something experienced or learned by individuals. The past matters to people in the present; groups and individuals define their identities in relation to memories. What is not memorialized is as important as what is commemorated. The course will explore the relationship between memory and forgetting (or "collective amnesia"), and transformations of memory. It will examine ways of sustaining memory through performance, the built environment, everyday practices (like food traditions), ceremonies, movements (such as restitution initiatives), laws, customs and specific "sites" of memory including memorials, museums, internet sites & public art.

One goal is to study how collective memories shape and are shaped by public discourse. Another goal is to develop a critical awareness of the relations of changing collective memories of the past to the present and the process of imagining the future. Format This is a seminar course. There will be lectures but student presentations and discussions are an important component of weekly activities. Students will be expected to participate actively in creating the seminar in real time through readings, discussion, proposal of cases and examples for study. Specific weekly topics and case for discussion and examples for applied theory will depend on the range of interests in seminar participants.

Course syllabus

Spring 2007