praxiteles cartoon


  • Art of the United States
  • Public sculpture and monuments
  • National and collective memory
  • Mourning art and material culture
  • Vandalism and iconoclasm
  • Casts, copies, and replicas
  • American Civil War and military history
  • Representations of the human body

CURRENT BOOK PROJECT: Monumental Crisis: Accident, Vandalism, and the Civil War Citizen Soldier

Monumental Crisis: Accident, Vandalism, and the Civil War Citizen Soldier examines the intersections between aesthetic value, political implications, and monumental destruction in memorials to the Civil War citizen soldier. Previous scholarship on these monuments has focused on their origin and development in the divisive postwar decades. And indeed, for much of their history, these monuments have been an accepted and often unquestioned part of the urban fabric. But as recent debates over Confederate monuments in the wake of the racially-motivated shooting in Charleston, S.C., this past summer have shown, the relatively static presence of these monuments has often masked deep-seated divisions that come to light at moments when the monument’s material fabric is ruptured. When monuments are vandalized, destroyed accidentally, weathered by neglect, or revised through deliberate additions to the initial work of art, they force communities to come to terms with the reasons for their existence and to decide whether to recommit to the initial causes they were meant to remember. Monumental Crisis will probe moments in the 150-year history of the Civil War citizen soldier monument when individual monuments have faced physical change, offering new insight into the role of memorials in national conversations and the nature of public memory itself.

Monumental Crisis will focus on four key processes through which a Civil War soldier monument is altered: vandalism, revision, neglect, and accident. By probing the existence of these monuments in American communities in the 150 years since they first began to appear, this book will offer a unique perspective on what happens to memorials after the initial fervor to erect and dedicate them has died down. Scholars of public monuments tend to deal in origin stories, and the existing scholarship on Civil War monuments is no exception: Kirk Savage, Thomas Brown, Gaines Foster, Carol Grissom, and others have all dealt ably with the nineteenth-century context in which these monuments were conceived. But there is more to the story after that moment of creation. When Civil War monuments are damaged or altered, they reawaken dormant controversies and generate heated debate. In probing these moments of rupture, this book will offer new theories on the afterlife of collective memory. This is important not only for the study of Civil War memorials or American sculpture but for the entire practice of public memory: whenever we create new monuments, we must consider how they will be viewed and cared for by future generations.

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