How do we remember?
Okay, so I took a slight departure from the readings for this one…but I will explain. I assisted with putting together the presentation for the undergraduate class surrounding Helmer’s concept of “Picturing Place.” We were given an excellent article titled, “Rhetorical Spaces in Memorial Places: The Cemetery as a Rhetorical Space/Place,” the citation is at the end of this post. I was extremely fascinated with the concept that images invoke memory, as Wright, the author of the article points out. However, when we encounter this idea of a space that is “normal” or something we are accustomed to, like seeing a cemetery and the image of a headstone, as simply that- just a headstone. For the most part, we may pay little attention to the detail such as the name, and in many cases, we simply ignore the true meaning behind the image of the headstone.Therefore, we forget that each and every cemetery is more than a collective unit of “remembering those who died.” She explains that it is only when specific factors of the image or space make an impression on the viewer that we as individuals take the time to remember the person who is commemorated by the headstone or memorial.
What I am trying to illustrate with this photograph is the idea that, arguably, the everyone in the class accept me, this headstone will invoke one of two types of memory: the first is the generalized “oh its a headstone and it is associated with where people are buried, etc.” and second, individuals may bring personal memory to their interpretation of this image based on prior experience. We know from reading Helmer’s that our prior experiences often dictate how we interpret images in front of us. However, the point that Wright is trying to make is that I will be the only one to truly associate this image with what it was meant to commemorate: my grandfather. Wright argues that only those who take time to learn the “story behind the stone” or those who inherently know what the stone truly represents will be able to interpret it as it was intended. Due to her concept of Cemeteries of Rhetorical Space; however, we as a collective viewer each are able to bring our own personal interpretation to the image due to prior experience both with cemeteries in general and possibly with more personal experiences.
Wright, Elizabethada. (2005). Rhetorical Spaces in Memorial Places: The Cemetery as a Rhetorical Memory Space/Place. Rhetorical Society Quarterly. 35 (4), 51-81.