Journal Article

Memorialising May 4, 1970 at Kent State University: Reflections on Collective Memory, Public Art and Religious Criticism<sup>1</sup>

Mark W. Graham

in Literature and Theology

Volume 20, issue 4, pages 424-437
Published in print December 2006 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online October 2006 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/frl042
Memorialising May 4, 1970 at Kent State University: Reflections on Collective Memory, Public Art and Religious Criticism1

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This essay explores the memorialising of the famous events of 4 May 1970, in which troops of the Ohio National Guard fired on demonstrators, killing four people and injuring nine. Despite the fact that the memorialisation process began almost immediately, in photographs, in popular song, in sculpture, in commemorative plaques and events, both the memory and the meaning of the events have been bitterly contested. Through the 1970s, and into the 1980s and beyond, individuals and groups called for a proper and official memorial to be made, while at the same time others criticised any effort to memorialise the events at all. Using Kent as a case study, and comparing it with the more recent case of the memorialisation of the Twin Towers attack on 9 September 2001, this argument considers the problems of commemoration, the limits of collective memory and the place of religious art—and thus religious meaning and religious criticism—in relation to public art and collective memory. In the end it suggests that, given the controversies surrounding both memorial sites, collective or public memory cannot depend on social consensus. Rather, it may rather be more fruitfully imagined, at least in American culture, as an interrogative, dialogical form of engagement, within one's self and with one's fellow citizens.

Journal Article.  6231 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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