History | Memory of Catastrophe
H750 | 16992 | Linenthal

Course description: what do we mean by "catastrophe?" Are there
significant differences between individual and social processes of
remembrance? What are the challenges of representing different kinds
of catastrophes: natural disasters, environmental disasters, acts of
mass murder? Are there significant differences between historicizing
and commemorating a catastrophe? Why do we now remember so intensely
and immediately such landscapes of violence? Why, for example, do
spontaneous shrines erupt at so many sites of violence? How does the
media-created spectacle of violence shape the memory of catastrophe?
What are various functions of memorialization of such events:
admonitory, pedagogical, therapeutic, consolatory,
pornographic...something else?

We will think together about the traumatic interior landscape of a
victim of sexual assault, about the "natural" catastrophe of a heat
wave in Chicago. We will engage the ways in which cities around the
world struggle with acts of mass murder and other disasters.. I am
particularly interested in thinking together about the adequacy of
the means of representations of these catastrophes. How are they
sanitized, trivialized, domesticated, memorialized, consigned to
oblivion? How might we characterize the narratives through which
catastrophes are made meaningful? And is "meaning" an interpretive
imperative in all situations?