American ruins: nostalgia, amnesia, and Blitzkrieg bop
MetadataShow full item record
“American Ruins: Nostalgia, Amnesia, and Blitzkrieg Bop” considers the symbolic role of contemporary urban ruins in the American imagination and in their relationship to America’s past. The United States contains more urban ruins than any other developed nation, yet ruins remain largely ignored as official sites of commemoration. This dissertation takes a look at the prominence of ruins as well as their invisibility, considering their role as sites of cultural memory, as well as how they are represented in literature, film, the visual arts, and the media. Throughout this study, an analysis of ruins as a motif in Romantic literature demonstrates how contemporary ways of seeing American ruins both challenge and conform to Romantic modes of contemplating these structures. In Chapter One, the fate of Civil War ruins is set against the history of Civil War commemoration and preservation in order to trace what narratives have been promoted about the conflict and what narratives have been erased. Chapter Two focuses on amusement ruins in Asbury Park, New Jersey. In popular recollections of Asbury Park, these ruins recall a legacy of racism and corruption as well as inspire nostalgia for the “glory days” of a working-class resort. In Chapter Three, the Aliso Village Housing Project ruins in Los Angeles testify to the ways in which attitudes towards age and ruin can help to justify the displacement and disruption of low-income communities. The final chapter studies the ruins of the World Trade Center in light of a history of New York City ruins beginning with the South Bronx during the 1970s and 1980s. Taken together, these case studies demonstrate how ruins can reflect the cultural memories of communities that remain under-represented by national monuments and memorials. The sites considered in this dissertation highlight examples of insidious traumas that frame the American experience (racism, displacement, economic upheaval), issues that put the process of commemoration/signification in crisis. These examples suggest possibilities for the incorporation of ruins into a commemorative landscape that would recognize America’s violent past and convulsive economic changes, as well offer a place to mourn and learn.