In preparation for my thesis, I am reading Brian Danielson’s Master’s thesis from 2008: “(Re)membering Dissent: Framing Anti-War Sentiment in Public Memory and Popular Culture through M*A*S*H” (California State University, Long Beach). The second chapter of his thesis strikes me as particularly relevant to what we discussed today in class about American memory of World War I and some of the parallels we drew to the Vietnam War. I wanted to share a short section from Danielson’s thesis as some food for thought for us all as we move forward in our research:
“Collective memory doesn’t exist alone inside the head of an individual; rather it exists in the circulation of memories in the public sphere through a variety of institutions and individuals.”1
“The rhetorical situation facing society in the post-Vietnam era was one characterized by polarization and alienation. Individuals struggled with reconciling their memories of the conflict with the mythical collective identity, and marginalized groups worked to find a place for their ideological perspectives to co-exist without the dominant discourse. These struggles often required a narrative framing that allowed for the remembrance of obfuscated or forgotten marginalized perspectives in dominant discourse.”2
I think that these 2 quotes really highlight what we discussed as the problems and tensions within American memory–because collective memory draws from so many sources, it is likely to embody some of the tensions between the different sources. Furthermore, Americans who have an individual memory of the war that significantly differs from the collective memory, it creates more conflict. I would guess that the tensions that exist between individual and collective memory, as well as those within collective memory, are part of what cause so much chaos and disillusionment for Americans after the end of World War I. I would also suggest that expectations are part of memory, so the disparity between expectation and reality that we talked about only fueled the tensions evident in different memories of the war.
Just some food for thought–I really liked these quotes and think that they give us some more angles/interpretations to consider in our work.
1. Brian Danielson, “(Re)membering Dissent: Framing Anti-War Sentiment in Public Memory and Popular Culture through M*A*S*H” (Master’s thesis, California State University, Long Beach, 2008), 28.
2. Ibid., 24.