Thursday, November 13, 2008

Parading History Down Main Street

Unlike monuments, parades are ephemeral. However, as the group rightly identified, Bodnar argues these displays of history are pageants of power. As a collective, you nicely summarized the differences between vernacular and official constructs of memory and how the two interrelate. You also did a good job summarizing Bodnar’s analysis of how official memory appropriated aspects of vernacular throughout the early twentieth century. In doing so, ethnic memory became a part of public memory but in doing so lost some of its particularity. We know about religious dissenters not for their own story but how they fit into the larger narrative of progress so often told by our political leaders. One wonders whether in a post-1965 society that embraces multiculturalism and diversity in making our American nation whether we will see a new emphasis on vernacular memory.

Bodnar’s style is not conversational, hence making it in some ways a more difficult read. It is a good lesson on how to parse through an academic text. Read the introduction, conclusion, and the first chapter very carefully. The other chapters should follow the pattern and arguments set forth in these other places, allowing you more room to skim. At the end, reread the introduction or the conclusion if you are still having trouble. The secret art of reading is that we all reread. I was glad to see that all of you took on the challenge and attempted to cope with difficult material rather then giving up.

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