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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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Lacrimae Rerum : Building a Bridge between Literary and Monumental Commemoration (Alex Donnelly)


alex donnelly

Alex Donnelly, veteran and scholar in the anthropology of conflict, explores how monumental works of literature can lay the foundations for our understanding of and engagement with other modes of remembrance.

In Book 1 of the Aeneid, Virgil’s epic hero finds himself washed up on the shores of an alien land. Defeated in Troy and battered by Mediterranean storms and whirlpools, he is far from his destroyed home and leading a small band of surviving crew. Amidst the survival imperatives of finding food and shelter there seems little time for quiet reflection. The Aeneid is, after all, the story of the birth of Rome from the ashes of Troy, and it is the conception of this destiny which drives both Aeneas and the work. However, before he allows Aeneas to get on with building the future, Virgil grants him a brief moment to reconcile himself with his struggles of the past: in an unusual moment of contemplative seclusion while scavenging for supplies, Aeneas comes across a Temple to Juno. On the temple walls are etched murals depicting scenes from the Trojan War, images of his friends and countrymen, many dead. When discovered by a comrade as he is crying before these architectural stone inscriptions, Aeneas famously explains: ‘sunt lacrimae rerum’.1 The genitive form of ‘rerum’ allows for two seemingly divergent interpretations: ‘there are tears for things’, and ‘there are tears of things’. It is as if not only does the human cry out because...

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