78904 - Semiotics of Memory (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Maria Patrizia Violi

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-FIL/05

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Semiotics (cod. 8886)

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will have achieved the necessary tools to critically elaborate the main themes and aspects relating to cultural memory's problems in a semiotic perspective.

Course contents

Memory and Trauma are today extremely rich fields of investigation, and are objects of specific disciplinary branches, respectively Memory Studies and Trauma Studies. While the various disciplines address traumatic memories from many different perspectives -  historical, psychological, sociological and so on -  less attention has been paid to the interplay between memory and trauma from a semiotic point of view. This course aims to illustrate the semiotic construction of remembering processes by way of texts and semiotic artefacts of different kinds, starting with a critical analysis of the very notion of cultural memory itself, its limits, uses and abuses. Various forms of memory types will be discussed: cultural memory, public memory, historical memory and so on, with focus on their mutual interplay during the shaping of individual memories.

The course will focus particularly on the ways in which memory is spatially constructed, both in the public spaces of cities and in the construction of different kinds of sites devoted to remembrance, such as memorials, monuments,  memory sites and museums. A number of  actual case studies will be analysed during the course.


Mandatory Reading Materials

1. Memory Studies: Theory and Perspectives

1.Assmann, J. “Communicative and Cultural Memory” in Erll, A.; Nünning, A. (eds.), A companion to cultural memory studies, Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, 2008.

2.Assmann, J., “Globalization, Universalism, and the Erosion of Cultural Memory”

3.Tamm, M., “Semiotic Theory of Cultural Memory: In the Company of Juri Lotman” in The Ashgate Research Companion to Memory Studies, Kattago, S (ed.), 2015, 127-141.

4.Connerton, P., “Seven types of forgetting”, in Memory Studies 2008; 1; 59.

5. Eco, U., “An Ars Oblivionalis? Forget it!”, in PMLA, Vol.103, n.3, 1988, 254-261.

2. Analysis of Space

1.Violi, P., Landscape of Memory. Trauma, Space, History, Peter Lang, 2017, Chapter 1 and 2.

2.Bellentani, F and Panico, M., “The meaning of monument and memorials: toward a semiotic approach” in Punctum. International Journal of Semiotics 2(1), 2016, pp. 28-46.

3.van der Larse R., Mazzucchelli F., Rejnen C. (eds)., “Introduction” in Special issue of VS, 119, 2014.

4. Mazzucchelli F., "From the 'Era of the Witness’ to an Era of Traces: Memorialization as a Process of Iconisation?" In Dziuban (ed). Mapping the 'Forensic Turn': Engagments with Materialities of Mass Death in Holocaust Studies and Beyond, New Academic Press: Vienna. 2017

3. Monuments and Counter-Monuments

1.Young, J. E., “The Counter-Monument: Memory against Itself in Germany Today” in Critical Inquiry, Vol. 18, No. 2., 1992, pp. 267-296.

2.Hannah Malone, “Legacies of Fascism: architecture, heritage and memory in contemporary Italy”, Modern Italy, 2017Vol. 22, No. 4, 445–470.

1.Wagner-Pacifici R. and Barry Schwartz, “The Vietnam Veterans memorial: Commemorating a Difficult Past,” American Journal of Sociology 97, no. 2 (1991): 376–420.

Teaching methods

The course is designed to stimulate active participation on the part of students. They will be asked to read and present in class a selection of reading materials. Active participation in collective discussion of these presentations will be considered an essential component of the course evaluation.

In particular, the course will be organized as follows:

Every week all the students are expected to submit a short paper (1-2 page) of reflection and critical points based on the assigned mandatory reading materials of the week, all available on line. The mini-essay is not meant as a summary of the materials, but rather as a critical personal reflection on some of the points that appear to be of particular interest to the student.

Students will be asked to present their elaborations in class and discuss them together. Two classes each week will generally be devoted to discussion.

Moreover, students will be asked to visit some memory sites and present one semiotic analysis, of one specific memory space of their own choice.

The last week (week 5) a mini conference will be organised, where each student will present a design for their final essay, with power points and in the format of a formal presentation in a scientific conference.

Assessment methods

The exam will consist of a paper which will be derived from the in-class presentation at the final mini conference, previously agreed upon with the professor. The paper might be a case study or a theoretical elaboration on some of the principal topics discussed during the class. It should have a length of 3.500 words max. Final papers may be based on collective work in a group, and in this case their total length must be proportional to the number of people participating in the group. Students who will not attend the course will have to present a paper of the same length on a topic previously agreed upon with the professor, and an oral examination on three of the papers from the reading list.

Teaching tools

The course foresees theoretical lectures and empirical analysis with multimedia support. Moreover,  students will be invited to take part in guided visits to a number of places of memory and to discuss their experience of these in the group.

Office hours

See the website of Maria Patrizia Violi