AH 340 - From Monument to Memorial: War, Trauma and Memory in Central Europe’s Public Spaces

This course provides a critical investigation of the history, forms, contexts, and reception of memorials in Central Europe, particularly Vienna. The purpose of the course is not only to provide an overview of the methods for creating public memorials throughout history, but also to compare how the intentions surrounding memorials, and the expectations for the collective value of public space, have changed over time. Because European soil is deeply layered with memorials of all kinds, our particular focus will be public monuments dedicated to war and trauma. Memorials of this kind date back to antiquity, but also include so-called counter-monuments, which are some of the most important public art being created today. Even as Europe is having in many places a belated first reckoning with its Nazi experience, the wages of communism are also being at last publicly explored. There has never been a more complex moment for the creation of public memory in central Europe, nor a better launching point for such a conversation than Vienna.

Because Vienna stands at the center of Hitler’s Reich, and at the western edge of the Iron Curtain, it is uniquely poised for the exploration of two of modern history’s most laden moments. This course will include visits to local monuments that embrace the entire history of memory, in all of its complexity (the Plague Column, the Votivkirche, the Memorial to the Victims of Fascism, the Judenplatz Memorial). We will also discuss memorial sites further afield in Germany, Hungary, France, and the US. The course will include two major site visits outside Vienna, dedicated to key historical moments. A weekend trip to Budapest will take in memorials to both the Holocaust and to the victims of Communism against the backdrop of Hungary’s current political structure. A trip to the Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz will examine the changing face of one of Europe’s best-preserved concentration camps.

Using recent scholarship in a growing area of art historical study, this course will attempt to answer the questions: What does it mean to attempt to create public memory? Whose experiences are addressed, and how? How have the intentions of public memorials changed along with their forms? How have recent memorials attempted to address the changing shape of politics in the modern age (pluralistic, global)? How are memorial spaces selected, and how does the presence of a memorial shape public space? What kinds of groups or experiences are excluded from public memory in the process of creating memorials?

Course study of more far-flung monuments can be linked with the examination of materials within Vienna to create a balance of classroom and site visit, or theory and direct experience.

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Art History

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