Kent State Memorial to the Slain Vietnam War Protestors. Interpreting the Site and Visitors’ Responses

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Through the lenses of Multimodal literacy and material rhetoric, this book examines the site where, in 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen dispersing a Vietnam War protest shot into a crowd of Kent State students, killing four and wounding nine. Weiss brings twelve local visitors to the area three decades later and explores the role that subsequent construction, including an official memorial, plays in its local public sphere. Overall, the study offers two significant contributions to the related fields of literacy and rhetoric. This book contains eleven black and white photographs.


“I admire Kathryn Weiss’s study and her compellingly written account for its contribution to both scholarly acuity and to the improvement of public life. . . .Her work comments directly upon how cities and universities use public memory and commemorative sites to clarify our differences and commonalities.” - Dr. John M. Ackeman, Associate Professor of Communication, University of Colorado, Boulder

“Kathryn Weiss follows rhetoric’s material turn to a site where the monumental and the everyday converge: the memorial site of the May 1970 Kent State shootings. In doing so, she makes a strong case that tragic events must be concretized before they fathomable, and they must be fathomable in order for change to occur. . . .Weiss’s book is a unique contribution to studies in material rhetoric.” - Debra Hawhee, author of Bodily Arts: Rhetoric and Athletics in Ancient Greece

“Readers interested in the process of memorialization or in the significance of the Kent State incident are likely to find her materially based reading of the memorial and its visitors to be rich and instructive.” - Celeste Condit, Research Professor in Speech Communication, University of Georgia

Table of Contents

Foreword by John M. Ackeman
1 Material Rhetoric and the Materiality of Rhetoric
2 Ambiguity in the Epideictic Tradition
3 The Brochure and the Site: Official Constructions of Space and History
4 Twelve Visitors’ Perspectives: An Interview and Protocol Study
5 The Map and the Site: Visitors’ Constructions of Space and History
6 Visitors Search for Marks of Relevance
7 “Offerings” and the Space of Material Rhetoric
8 A Theory of Material Rhetoric
9 Material Rhetoric, Qualitative Research
Appendix A: Interview Scripts
Appendix B: List of Artifacts Mentioned by Participants
Appendix C: Written Sections of the Brochure
Appendix D: The White Papers
Leaning toward the Material Sphere: Additional Resources

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