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On Commemoration

Global Reflections upon Remembering War

Edited By Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro

How, in the twenty-first century, can we do commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, religious leaders, military veterans and scholars debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. They include the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, the award-winning novelists Aminatta Forna and Rachel Seiffert, and the human rights lawyer and Gifford Baillie Prize-winner Philippe Sands. Polemics and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that speaks to our common humanity.

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Encountering Commemoration (Jane Potter with Kate McLoughlin)

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jane potter with kate mcloughlin

Literary scholar Jane Potter talks to Kate McLoughlin about textual and material commemorative cultures and the central role of words and language in the reconstruction and renegotiation of memory.

kate mcloughlin: Jane, you are first and foremost a scholar of First World War literature and culture as well as publishing. Where do you encounter commemoration in your work?

jane potter: I think in lots of different ways. As a book historian and somebody who teaches the history of publishing, I think publishing itself, particularly in wartime, is a kind of commemoration. It produces memorial volumes: those in memory of a poet who has died, say, or compilations of work sold for charities. I was thinking about Daniel Libeskind’s lecture [in this volume] when he was quoting Derrida about how you can erase words but you cannot erase buildings, and I think actually in some ways the opposite is true. You can easily take down buildings, but words are different. You may erase the physical book – you could burn a copy or take it offline, you could cease to read it – but it remains in people’s memories in a way that buildings don’t. Especially poetry. When you recite things or you remember certain passages that are then spoken or rewritten or copied out in someone’s notebook, that is a memorial.

kate mcloughlin: I agree. I think that re-writing and reciting – and it’s interesting that they’re both ‘re’-words – really...

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