Review of The Art of Commemoration
|Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2004 11:58:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: Giampaolo Poletto
Subject: The Art of Commemoration
EDITOR: Ensink, Titus; Sauer, Christopher
TITLE: The Art of Commemoration
SUBTITLE: Fifty Years after the Warsaw Uprising
SERIES: Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Giampaolo Poletto, 3rd year PhD student, Doctoral School in Linguistics,
University of Pécs, Hungary
This volume proposes to scholars and students a well-framed multifaceted
picture of a unique international discoursal event.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, August 1, 1994,
representatives of different countries and institutions, invited by the Polish
President in the name of the spirit of reconciliation and to establish new
relationships, delivered a speech or read a letter on behalf of a person of
The essays in chapters 3 to 10 show a discoursal approach to each address.
Ensink and Sauer introduce the volume: Chapter 1, Facing the past, pp.1-18;
Chapter 2, A discourse analytic approach to the commemorative speeches about
the Warsaw Uprising, pp.19-40.
In Chapter 11 - The politics of public memory, pp. 222-241 - Frank van Vree
overviews on how expressions of historical consciousness determine the shifts
in the way a society treats its past. Complex phenomena of historical culture
(see Hutton, 1994; Young, 1994), time and societal developments affect the
representations of the Second World War, as to the politics of commemoration in
Germany, The Netherlands, France and Poland. There is an evolution, different
in Eastern Europe, from a shared forgetfulness about signs of weakness to a
pluralist and politicised view: internal conflicts merge and imply
acknowledgement of responsabilities; public memory of countries converge on the
persecuted of the war; war does not temporarily interrupts the continuity of
history, where it is included. As a sign of a universal humanist historical
culture, memory is vivid, as Auschwitz shows.
This view supports the general framework of the volume: Nietzsche's double
perspective of historicism and oblivionism (see Weinrich, 2000). Historicism is
the legitimisation of the present, related to the past as a national memory. It
is vital to culture, as systematic forgetting is crucial to its vitality.
Contemporary commemorations of the events of the Second World War remember the
results of historical developments and forget details and coincidental events.
They are to be planned and designed to meet the public's needs. Warsaw 1994
successfully recalibrates the memory of the events of 1944.
The old German enemies and the late Russian oppressors are together in Warsaw,
with the then-allies to the Polish uprisers. There are representatives from
England, the USA, France, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Their
addresses are presented on Kras'inski Square. The letter from the Polish Pope
Karol Woityla is read by his Nuntius during the Holy Mass in Pil/sudski Square,
Each speaker gives voice to one nation and addresses a multiple audience, as
animator, author or principal (see Goffman, 1981). The address relates to a
situational context. Speakers have thus precise roles (see Levinson, 1988),
analysed as to their direct participation in the situation; their direct
involvement in the physical transmission of the message; their motivation or
desire to communicate it; their responsaibility for or involvement in devising
its form or format (see Ensink, 1996).
The event is a cross-national commemoration. Speeches take into account the
occasion itself and the commemorated event, balancing between remembering and
forgetting. An overview on all speeches thus results in the following. The role
of the Uprising in Polish history is mythically interpreted (see Galasin'ski,
Chapter 3). A former enemy delivers a guilt-filled address, to come to terms
with the past (see Ensink and Sauer, Chapter 4). Participants are clearly
categorised and lively described (see Mazeland, Chapter 5). The support of the
then-allies is emphasized (see Schäffner, Chapter 6). History is referred to as
an abstract central category (see Torck, Chapter 7). The Uprising, the post-war
and post-communist period are not to be much burdened with history (see
Steinke, Chapter 8). The circumstances and results of the uprising are shortly
or not mentioned (see Koole, Chapter 9). The Uprising symbolizes the struggle
against any totalitarianism (see Steinke, Chapter 10).
In the situational context of Warsaw 1994, addresses are epideictic
commemorative speeches (see Rhetorica ad Herennium, ca. 85. B.C.;
Kopperschmidt, 1989). Their main purpose is the confirmation of the system of
values and norms of a group the orator speaks to or on behalf of, giving a
shared public language to the collective recollection and experience. That
determines the margins for his speech, which incorporates a moral meaning and
contributes to a political discourse. A convincing oration has to fulfil five
rhetoric tasks. Two are mostly relevant here: memoria, the speech-related task
of knowing and remembering as much as possible what to say; actio, the
performance-related task of eliminating disparities between words and speaking
Given their multiple purposes, commemorative speeches are risky. The unifying
element is the viewpoint they have to find and actualise, for the audience to
adopt it. A consistent perspective frames expected and expectable steps and
prevents the public from digression and possible misinterpretation. A set of
functional-communicative procedures, the perspectivisation (see Sandig, 1996),
realises complex thematisations and different viewpoint relations.
In the cross-national commemoration of the Warsaw Uprising, the structural and
lexical means proper of a certain language construct many perspectivisation
strategies: the direct address to different addressees by the Polish President;
the alternative use of an I- and We-perspective by the German President; the
permanent shift from a factual recollection of events to their meaning for
future generations by the US Vice-President; the 'narrator' perspective of the
Uprising of the British Prime Minister; the blending of the leader of the
Uprising with the French Revolution by the President of the French Senate; the
appeal to the good will of Poles, in the perspective of Russia and a Polish
'relative', the personal envoy of the Russian President; the shift from the war
to present-day developments in Poland, on a par with South Africa, by its
Minister of Foreign Affairs; the role of Canadian soldiers and the 'commitment
to peace and freedom' of Poland and Canada stressed by its Defence Minister;
the reference to the new Polish government by Australia's High Commissioner;
his own, the role of New Zealand soldiers in the war, the final greeting to the
Poles, by the New Zealand's High Commissioner; the meaning of the Uprising in a
historical and Christian perspective, argumented in the Pope's letter.
The analyses of the speeches refer to their original language, using the
English translation in support and stressing some differences in the
circulating versions. Following the speech delivery order, analyses display:
the analytical methodology; information about the source; the structural,
rethorical, thematic, historical and perspectivising features of the addresses;
the relation with the representativity of the speaker and the significance of
the speech in the context of the host and represented country.
The Messianic Warsaw - pp.41-56 - describes how Lech Wal/e,sa delivers an
opening speech where the myth of Poland as the Messiah of nations reaches its
climax in the Uprising, after the sacrifice of the chosen, death as the end,
victory as the new redeemed beginning. The particular experience of the
Uprising is related to universal values, through an interpretation for the data
empirically accessible (see Kol/akowski, 1986). The methodological
underpinnings come from the critical language study (see Fowler, 1979).
The search for acceptable perspectives - pp.57-94 - describes how Roman Herzog
meets the audience's expectations and fills the slot created by the Polish
President, who has directly addressed him. The key-word is 'forgiveness'. The
method of analysis is the Critical Discourse Analysis (see Fairclough, 1989).
A politician's sociology - pp.95-115 - describes Albert Gore's categorisation
in collectives (see Jayyusi, 1984) of the Polish and German participating in
the Uprising. In a comparative socio-structural mapping, the former are
city-resident, national, specific and individual categories; the latter are an
undesirable political state of affairs, impersonally categorised as a
hierarchical military organisation.
Framing the past - pp.116-140 - describes the macrostructure,
macropropositions, dominant values, speech acts and main cognitive frames (see
Andor, 1985; Fillmore, 1985), identified for Poland and the UK in the textual
structure of John Major's address, which implicitly refers to his conservative
government's view on the EU.
>From commemoration to self-celebration - pp.141-172 - describes the
structure, vocabulary and intertextual quality of André Monory's address, to
emphasize the self-centred character of the French contribution and motivate
it, as to the recent events and the speaker's participant role (see Irvine,
How the Russians handled a problem - pp.173-192 - describes Sergey Filatov's
address intertextually (see Fairclough, 1995), in two stages: descriptive and
interpretative. The envoy's speech and the absent Russian President Yeltsin's
letter reflect their different rank, the delicate moment of Russia, heir to the
collapsed Soviet Union, a complementary vague reference to the Uprising.
Filatov stresses a view of historical facts to neutralise controversial points
and only hint at a slow shift in the Russian perspective.
Merging frames - pp.193-210 - describes how linguistic means establish
political meaning in the addresses of the South African, Canadian, Australian
and New Zealand then-allies to the Poles, focusing on the relationship of the
co-constructive text and context (see Duranti & Goodwin, 1992). The texts have
in common: the reference to the Uprising, the Polish turn from communism, the
present Commemoration, connected and sometimes blurred; the differing degree of
specificity of the actors; opaque deictic and referential identifications of
actors and events. The public's background knowledge is to reconstruct a
specific meaning. That shows the rethorical nature of addresses aiming to
reconciliate rather than commemorate.
Pope John Paul II as a Polish Patriot - pp.211-221 - describes how the letter
of the Pope, as a religious and not political representative, has two major
aspects, structurally repeated in sections I and III, II and IV: the historical
and the moral dimension and significance of the Warsaw Uprising, for Poland and
Europe. The failure of the Uprising is a sacrifice, an example for future
A single event has a remarkable discoursal relevance, in the context of the
art of commemoration and representation, as the present volume consistently and
clearly shows. The perspective is overthrown in the last chapter, where
Nietszche's double perspective of remembering and forgetting applies to many
events. They characterize the evolution in the way to approach the past by
different societies and undercover the wider frame of a universal humanistic
historical culture, which goes beyond rhetorics and politics.
Andor, J. (1985) On the psychological relevance of frames. Quaderni di
Semantica 6 (2): 212-221.
Duranti, A. and Goodwin, C. (eds.) (1992) Rethinking context: Language as an
interactive phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ensink, T. (1996) The footing of a royal address: An analysis of
representativeness in political speeches, exemplified in Queen Beattrix'
address to the Knesset on March 28, 1995. Current issues in language and
society 3 (3): 205-132 (312?).
Fairclough, N. (1989) Language and power. London: Longman.
Fairclough, N. (1995) Critical discourse analysis. London: Longman.
Fillmore, C.J. (1985) Frames and the semantics of understanding. Quaderni di
Semantica 6 (2): 222-254.
Fowler, R., Hodge, B., Kress, G. and Trew, T. (eds.) (1979) Language and
control. London: Routledge.
Goffman, E. (1981) Forms of talk. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hutton, P.H. (1994) Review essays. History and theory 33 (1): 95-107.
Irvine, J.T. (1996) Shadows convesations: The indeterminacy of participant
roles. In M. Silverstein and G. Urban (eds.), Natural histories of discourse,
131-159. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Jayyusi, L. (1984) Categorisation and the moral order. Boston, London, etc:
Kol/akowski, L. (1986) Obecnos'c' mitu (The Presence of myth). Waszawa: In
Kopperschmidt, J. (1989) Öffentliche Rede in Deutschland. Muttersprache 99:
Levinson, S. (1988) Putting linguistics on a proper footing: Explorations in
Goffman's concept of participation. In P. Drew and A. Wootton (eds), Erving
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Sandig, B. (1996) Sprachliche Perspektivierung und perspektivierende Stile.
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| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Giampaolo Poletto is 3rd year PhD student at the Doctoral School in
Linguistics, University of Pécs, Hungary; his fields of interest are discourse
analysis, pragmatics, language acquisition.