Set in Stone: Rhetorical Performances in Virginia Tech's April 16th Memorial

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Virginia Tech


This dissertation traces the rhetorical history of Virginia Tech's April 16th Memorial from its earliest appearance immediately following the April 16, 2007 shootings up to its present iteration as a permanent memorial on Virginia Tech's campus. Specifically, this study reveals how the April 16th Memorial is a public memory performance that has changed (and continues to change) in its form, function, and significance across time. Based on a data set that includes archival evidence, interview data, and fieldwork, I argue that over the course of its history, the April 16th Memorial has negotiated tensions and fusions between the epideictic and deliberative genres that exist within its bounds. In doing so, the memorial asks audiences to honor and remember the dead while also compelling audiences to deliberate over the social and political issues punctuated by the tragedy. Whereas the epideictic appeals in the memorial aim to reknit the community, the deliberative appeals invite audiences to imagine a better, safer world. By tracing the intersections between these two genres, this study demonstrates how complementary and competing forces in the memorial vie over not only constructions of public memory but also the lessons we are meant to gain from the April 16, 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech.



memorials, Memory, materiality, deliberative rhetoric, epideictic rhetoric, mass school shooting