Graduation Year

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Marc C. Santos

Keywords

Division, Kenneth Burke, Language, La S[eacute]tima, Maurice Halbwachs

Abstract

This thesis reconsiders Maurice Halbwachs' theory of collective memory in terms of rhetoric. My purpose is to examine specifically how fading generations conform the present to the past as they fight to maintain and defend their collective identities. Although rhetoric and memory studies have often focused on the complex matters of national collectives, Halbwachs was also concerned with the individual and his or her interaction among those groups that matter in everyday living and memory's role in generational shifts that slowly transform culture. Halbwachs' theory helps determine exactly how attempts at conflict resolution are sometimes guarded defenses against threats to one's personal and collective identity. In contrast to the generally accepted use of memory as selectively adapting the past for present purposes, this protection of identity may require the present to remain faithful to one's past. To examine how memory and rhetoric are complementary, I draw a parallel between Maurice Halbwachs' collective memory theory and Jim Corder's notion of individual identity as historical narrative. Then, in further retracing Kenneth Burke's influence on Corder's work, I also compare Halbwachs' social constructionist view of memory to Burke's theories of symbolicity and identification. Finally, I apply these theories to the recent 2012 debate in Ybor City, Florida over the Spanish spelling of Seventh Avenue in which passing generations struggle to preserve their identity and sense of belonging in the changing social milieu. In demonstrating how people seek a more permanent sense of identity articulated through memory, this debate offers an alternative to the theory of identity as a rhetorical performance negotiated in the present.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons

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