History, monuments, and canonicity after the Vietnam War

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Michael Rothberg - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Lindsey Tucker - Committee Member


This dissertation explores the classification of Vietnam War texts in the literary canon by emphasizing the role of nation and politics in the construction of cultural history and memory. Official bodies of war literature and history, set against the antihegemonic, transgressive or subversive discourses of the antiwar left, yield a theory of monuments and counter-monuments, canons and counter-canons, that encapsulates a struggle for a legitimate history of the Vietnam War era. A diachronic study of the development and evolution of monuments to the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State links the impulses and effects of monumentalization to canonicity and political marginalization. Innovative readings of esteemed Vietnam War works such as Michael Herr's Dispatches (1978) and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1978) evaluate their associations with the radical writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomsky and others. Antiwar logics of Quaker, radical pacifism are discerned in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973) as well as in the author's ancestry and cultural milieu. Within various frames of narration, the study raises a number of issues related to violence and responsible historical memory: the meaning of intertextuality; the role of ethics in cultural criticism; the processes of capitalization of historical objects; the values of nationalism in literature.


American Studies; History, United States; Literature, American; Cinema

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