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Memorials to Shattered MythsVietnam to 9/11$
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Harriet F. Senie

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190248390

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190248390.001.0001

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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: A Symbolic Cemetery on the National Mall

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: A Symbolic Cemetery on the National Mall

(p.11) { 1 } The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: A Symbolic Cemetery on the National Mall
Memorials to Shattered Myths

Harriet F. Senie

Oxford University Press

The site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982), between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument on the National Mall, defines it as central to U.S. unity and identity, even though the undeclared war it commemorates prompted a political crisis that divided the country into antagonistic factions. The memorial pays tribute to the sacrifice of those who fought and, by listing their names, it deliberately separates the soldiers from the war. Visitors responded immediately to Maya Lin’s funereal design as if it were a giant tombstone, a symbolic cemetery where they unexpectedly left tributes, thus conflating the functions of a memorial with that of a cemetery. This memorial became a prototype, particularly in the listing of the names of the dead and the creation of a memorial complex offering multiple perspectives rather than a single structure with more limited meaning.

Keywords:   Maya Lin, National Mall, symbolic cemetery, Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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