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Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade

Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade

by Robert S. Nelson (Editor), Margaret Olin (Editor)

How do some monuments become so socially powerful that people seek to destroy them? After ignoring monuments for years, why must we now commemorate public trauma, but not triumph, with a monument? To explore these and other questions, Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin assembled essays from leading scholars about how monuments have functioned throughout the world


How do some monuments become so socially powerful that people seek to destroy them? After ignoring monuments for years, why must we now commemorate public trauma, but not triumph, with a monument? To explore these and other questions, Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin assembled essays from leading scholars about how monuments have functioned throughout the world and how globalization has challenged Western notions of the "monument."

Examining how monuments preserve memory, these essays demonstrate how phenomena as diverse as ancient drum towers in China and ritual whale-killings in the Pacific Northwest serve to represent and negotiate time. Connecting that history to the present with an epilogue on the World Trade Center, Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade is pertinent not only for art historians but for anyone interested in the turbulent history of monuments—a history that is still very much with us today.

Stephen Bann, Jonathan Bordo, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jas Elsner, Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Robert S. Nelson, Margaret Olin, Ruth B. Phillips, Mitchell Schwarzer, Lillian Lan-ying Tseng, Richard Wittman, Wu Hung

Editorial Reviews

Canadian Literature
Nelson and Olin have collected an extraordinarily eclectic range of papers—on everything from early modern travel journals to the markers of nuclear waste sites, from nationalist conflicts in India to Roland Barthes and the temporality of photography.”

— Charles Barbour

Canadian Literature - Charles Barbour
"Nelson and Olin have collected an extraordinarily eclectic range of papers—on everything from early modern travel journals to the markers of nuclear waste sites, from nationalist conflicts in India to Roland Barthes and the temporality of photography.”

Michael Ann Holly
Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade is a provocative collection of essays that explore the social meaning and cultural function of images. As many of the authors testify, monuments do not reflect their past so much as they work to create memory in the present. Particularly valuable and timely is Nelson’s and Olin’s inclusion of studies that analyze the significance of monuments, sometimes destroyed, in different cultures."

Michele H. Bogart
“Nelson and Olin have brought together a rich group of essays of exceedingly high quality. There are many books on monuments and memory, but no other book probes the notion of the monument in the exhaustive way this book does. None has a comparable chronological, global, and imaginative range, or its intellectual and methodological diversity.”

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University of Chicago Press
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Read an Excerpt

Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade

The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2003 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-57157-7

Chapter One
Scaling the Cathedral: Bourges in John Bargrave's Travel Journal for 1645


Much has already been written about the importance of the cathedral for French authors in the postrevolutionary period. From Hugo and Balzac to Proust, it acquired the character not just of a polyvalent symbol condensing themes of historical rupture and change, but indeed of a central metaphor for the all-embracing and, so to speak, architectural ambitions of the modern writer. For Hugo, who wrote eloquently in the Restoration period about the need to rehabilitate monuments destroyed by the Revolution, the image of the cathedral symbolized the transition from a premodern culture in which public messages were transmitted by the emblematic facades of great buildings to a situation in which the individual creator strives to achieve mass communication through the written text. As he memorably commented: "Le livre tuera l'édifice." A century after Hugo, Proust-having spent several years of his youth pondering the literary resurrection of a great French cathedral in Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens-further radicalized Hugo's message by claiming, in A la recherche du temps perdu, that the only ground for such a new symbolic architecture is the fertile soil of individual reminiscence. Julia Kristeva paraphrases Proust's message in the form of an imperative addressed to the modern reader: "If you will only be so good as to open up your memories of felt time, there will rise the new cathedral."

This study, though written in the light of such modern developments, seeks to elaborate a rather different equation between history and memory, writing and the cathedral, in the context of a historically specific economy of the verbal and the visual sign. I am indebted to studies of the early modern period which anchor speculations of this kind in concrete objects and particular life experiences, from Jonathan Spence's already classic account of the career of a Jesuit father, Matteo Ricci, at the Chinese court to Juliet Fleming's recent speculation on graffiti and other forms of writing in Tudor and Stuart England. Both the subjective processing of the otherness of the foreign land and the specific conditions of material inscription in the early modern period will be recurrent issues in the argument that follows.

The most direct point of reference, however, is my own work on the cleric, collector, and traveler John Bargrave (1610-80). In my earlier study of Bargrave, I tried to tease out the connections between his extensive travels throughout Europe during the period of the English Civil War, his formation of a "cabinet of curiosities" which has survived almost intact up to the present day, and his need to bear witness through these activities to the historical predicament in which he found himself. For Bargrave, as I argued, the gradual formation of a collection was, in a sense, a secular act of mourning for the antebellum society that he, and his family, had irretrievably lost. The recent reappearance of the original manuscript of Bargrave's French travel journal of 1645 provides a remarkable opportunity to extend this earlier investigation. A happy survival from what Fleming calls the "paper-short" situation of early modern England, this journal commemorates the very first expedition which Bargrave made to the continent, in the early stages of the English Civil War. It combines moral reflection and travel narrative with a significant number of visual illustrations penned by Bargrave that possess, in my view, an emblematic as well as a descriptive character. For the history of tourism as a mode of condensing memory in pregnant images and commentary, it is (as I hope to show) an early and exemplary text.

Here we must recognize both a direct link with and a difference from the postrevolutionary French examples with which I began this essay. It is indeed crucial to note that this journal was written in the early stages of the English Revolution-a conflict in which John Bargrave and his whole family were directly or indirectly involved, and which precipitated this particular journey, as it did all of his continental travels between 1645 and 1660. I take it for granted that his account of France in 1645 reflects the conflictual situation in which he found himself at the outset of the struggle. It was colored inevitably by his strongly held ideological views on religious, political, and broadly cultural matters.

I go further, however, in proposing a dominant theme in Bargrave's imaginaire that recalls the role of the cathedral for French writers living in the aftermath of the Revolution. Balzac is said to have compared his life's achievement as a writer to the Cathedral of Bourges, thus indicating a kind of counterflow of artistic genius with which he hoped to recuperate the symbolic achievement of the now demythologized architectural structure. Bargrave had no such ambition, for his collection or for his journal. But the expedition of 1645 that gave rise to the latter can surely be viewed as a tale of two cathedrals. The symbolic center of his early life had undoubtedly been the great metropolitan cathedral of Canterbury, in whose shadow he had received his first schooling, and at which his redoubtable Royalist uncle, Isaac Bargrave, presided as dean between 1625 and 1643. His decision to make Bourges the focal point of his French journey-at a point when Dean Bargrave had paid with his life for his stalwart opposition to the Parliament-must have been inspired by the desire to recover the center which he had recently lost. What I term "scaling the cathedral" amounts to a kind of calibration of the new site by analogy with the earlier one. In other words, I suggest that it is by minutely describing his discoveries, and relating them implicitly to his earlier experience, that Bargrave strives to recover his psychological equilibrium. Bourges is a new site to him, certainly, but it is also qualified to serve as a site of memory.

Why then, precisely, did John Bargrave set out for France in 1645, and how should we interpret his decision to choose Bourges? The first question can soon be answered in terms of the genuine emergency in which he found himself after the death of his uncle, the dean, in January 1643 and his expulsion in the following year from the fellowship which he occupied at the Cambridge college of Peterhouse. Dean Bargrave's death appears to have been a direct consequence of the period of three months' imprisonment without trial that he suffered at the hands of the Long Parliament. He had taken a leading role in organizing the Royalist opposition in east Kent, and several members of his family were participants in the first Kent rebellion of 1643, itself a prelude to the much bloodier Rebellion of 1648, which has been termed "the last great local insurrection in English history." As a younger son, who had been schooled for an academic and ultimately an ecclesiastical career, John Bargrave had no direct part to play in the increasingly bellicose machinations of his elder brother and his close male relatives. The path to Paris had already been taken by a number of prominent Royalists, who feared for their safety in Britain and were able to plot with impunity in the capital city of the neighboring great power. Bargrave records in his journal for May 31, shortly after his own arrival in Paris: "I had an opportunity to talke above an houre with the Marquess of Newcastle and after that with the Earle of Yarmouth and the Lord German whoe for the memorie of my uncle the Deane of Canterburie used me exceeding courteously." It is typical of Bargrave that he should take pride in the credit accruing to his name from his uncle's courageous reputation, and he would certainly have exchanged political views with these prominent exiles. But the purpose of his own journey was not to serve as a Royalist agent.

In fact, the very first dated entry of the journal, recording his departure from Dover on May 23, conveys the practical objective. It mentions that he is traveling in the company of "2 young gentle-men, viz Mr Alexander Chapman, and Mr John Richards," to whom he is acting as "Governor." His equally young nephew, John Raymond, is also of the party. One may imagine that the disruption of courses at the University of Cambridge, following the mass ejection of recalcitrant fellows, had left many young undergraduates in the lurch. Indeed Raymond himself, who had taken up his foundation scholarship at Peterhouse only in January 1643, must have had his studies rudely curtailed. The journey to Bourges, via Paris, was thus a supervised excursion, involving a move to an alternative scene of instruction. The address which Bargrave provides for direction of his correspondence on the opening page of the journal indicates his arrangement to take lodgings in the academic quarter of the city. It reads: "Monsieur Bargrave gentilhomme Anglais demeurant au logis de Monsr Taupin rue des Juifs proche les grandes escoles." The latter term is glossed by the further reference to the schools that Bargrave provides in his "prospect" of Bourges: "The grand escole for the civil and canon law and physic." Elsewhere in the journal he refers to it simply as "the university."

The analogy with Cambridge is thus plain from the start. When Bargrave records his attendance at academic ceremonies at the university, he remarks: "All wch forms differeth but little from that of Cambridge, that of the girdle being excepted." Yet it would not have made much sense for him to choose Bourges for this visit if what was required was an academic community in close contact with Cambridge. There was probably no reciprocal agreement between the institutions, such as the one that allowed Bargrave and his two academic traveling companions to be matriculated at the University of Padua on a later visit to Italy in 1647. Bourges must surely have caught his attention, at least in part, because of its strong parallels with Canterbury. It was an ancient Gallo-Roman town, the former capital of one of the provinces of Aquitaine, with many vestiges of the Roman occupation still visible in its extensive fortifications. Bargrave, who took the trouble to sign himself "Gentleman of England and Kent" on the title page of his College of Cardinals, would have been very sensitive to such signs of provincial pride. Since medieval times, moreover Bourges had been capital of the Berry and the site of an archbishopric, with an imposing Gothic cathedral. If only ecclesiastical connections were important to him, Bargrave might well have selected Sens, whose cathedral had strong architectural links with Canterbury, and whose archdiocese traditionally encompassed the diocese of Paris. But Sens, awkwardly placed on the border between Ile-de-France and northern Burgundy, had few of the characteristics of a provincial capital which Bourges, the center of the former royal apanage of the ducs de Berry, unquestionably possessed.

A further factor of interest is that Bourges and its surrounding region had suffered sorely in France's own recent civil war, the Wars of Religion, which extended well into the seventeenth century. The only major excursion that Bargrave and his party made during their visit was to see the town of Sancerre, on the Loire about thirty miles from Bourges, where the ruinous state of the buildings provoked Bargrave's reflections:

There is likewise a poore peece of a Monestery of the Augustinians, wch wee going to see, The father that showed us the Garden told us that it was at that time 22 yeares since the Prince of Condé (now living) caused that City to be so ruined-a Cause d'Heretiques-by reason that the Huguenots in the Civil Warre hell owt the seige so slowly that the histories admire it, saying that they eate man's flesh a long time before they were betrayed.

It is straight after this chilling revelation that Bargrave chooses to adorn the journal with one of his most elaborate sketches: a view of the town of Sancerre, with fortifications clinging precariously around the hill, and a motif of vines and bunches of grapes filling the mound in a highly formalized way. The village of Saint Thibault and the winding course of the Loire can be seen in the background. What, if any, is the connection between the fragment of recent history that Bargrave has just retailed, and the view that he sketches in? In order to begin to answer this question, which poses in a brutal way the status of visual reference in Bargrave's text, we need to look first of all at the ideology that he explicitly represents. This has an important role both in determining the way in which the traveler ought to behave and in conferring the obligation to convey points of note to an eventual audience.

John Bargrave's philosophy of travel, as defined in the opening pages of his journal, has a strong ethical dimension, which is inseparable from its political dimension. It is consonant with the middle-of-the-road Anglicanism of his uncle Dean Isaac, and of such close allies of the dean as Matthew Wren, bishop of Ely, who was left high and dry with the increasing polarization of the English political class into Puritan and High Church, or Laudian, factions. But it can also be equated with the highly influential definition of the "gentleman" provided by Henry Peacham in his early-seventeenth-century treatise The Compleat Gentleman. The connection lies in a common abhorrence of extremes, whether in actions or opinions, and in the maintenance of courteous and discreet ehavior at all times. Bargrave's own formulation is as follows:

The traveller must not make comparisons, especially (such as most are subject unto) concerning, and preferring theire owne countrie in every thing.... Courtesie is the chiefest cognisance of a gentleman with joyned such that discretion may travaile without a passport: and he is the cheapest friend who is gayned only be courtesie. If his apparell be fashionable it matters not how plaine it be; it being a ridiculous vanity to go gaudy amongst strangers, it is as if one should light a candle to the Sunn.

Maybe Bargrave himself could be accused of breaking his own rule when he comments, on his visit to Notre-Dame on June 14 during the Paris stay, that it is "but smalle (two or 3 such might almost stand in Pauls at London)"! But his measurements in this case are not entirely fanciful. Bargrave's mother was the daughter of a wealthy London haberdasher, and he was very well acquainted with Old Saint Paul's, up to its destruction by fire in 1666 the longest church in northern Europe. Moreover, he goes on to commend Notre-Dame's adornments of "hangings and pictures, and sculptures whereof the most stately and magnificent is the story of St Christopher at the entrance of the Church."

Being courteous and discreet should not however inhibit communication. Bargrave proves himself to be dedicated to social intercourse, even with (and perhaps particularly with) those who do not share his point of view, and he is no less eager to see and record for his future readers all exotic features of note. Here again, there is a pithy sentence from the first page of the French journal that sums up his philosophy: "The Life of a Traveller should be spent either in Reading/Meditation/Discourse by such he doth converse with ye Deade/ Himself/Living." It is a characteristic initiative when, on August 28, 1645, Bargrave sallies out to debate the fine points of the doctrine of transubstantiation with the Jesuits of Bourges, at that date quite newly installed in their splendid new college next to the Renaissance Hôtel des Echevins. This was not in fact an encounter with complete strangers: the two Jesuits were Father Carew, an Englishman, and Father Sproud, a Scot, and the debate, though an imated, appears to have been friendly. More daring and more risky in its undertaking must have been Bargrave's eventually fulfilled ambition to converse with Bourges's most eminent inhabitant, a prince of the blood and the governor of the city-the very prince de Condé who had so cruelly punished the town of Sancerre. Bargrave seems to court impudence when blithely asking the prince "why hee was in so little a house," but the Machiavellian reply which he receives seems to indicate that his powerful interlocutor did not take the question amiss.


Excerpted from Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade Copyright © 2003 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Robert S. Nelson is a Distinguished Service Professor of Art History and the History of Culture, and chair of the Committee on the History of Culture at the University of Chicago. He is the editor of Visuality before and beyond the Renaissance: Seeing as Others Saw and coeditor of Critical Terms for Art History, second edition, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

Margaret Olin is a professor of art history, theory, and criticism, and Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of The Nation without Art: Examining Modern Discourses on Jewish Art.

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