JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 268
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see not just the little girl whose picture we now recall to memory, but the
woman she has become, the photograph and the photograph's story.
Throughout the documentary we are confronted by the juxtaposition of
girl and woman; the silence of the girl and the speech of the woman who
both is and isn't still that girl.
By choosing to end her film at the wall, Saywell deliberately forges
not only a visual link between two women of Asian descent, Kim Phuc
and Maya Lin; she joins two women who have played an important role
in keeping alive in American memory a war fought in Asia by the men
who were its soldiers. These women do not, of course, have a monopoly
on the Vietnam story, which has been memorialized in various media, but
their acts of testimony continue to shape the collective American uncon-
scious about the war. I want briefly to sketch out now some of the
connections I see between Kim Phuc's role as mediator and Maya Lin's
as shaper of traumatic memory through the monument she created, the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The performances of both women make it
possible for a highly emotional public response to the war that divided the
Maya Lin was a very young woman when she lived through the
making of the memorial and the range of public and publicized responses
to it-notably, the virulently negative ones. An Academy Award winning
short film about her working history as an architect-Maya Lin: A Strong
Clear History-documents movingly the violence of reactions to the
design. In a chapter about the memorial in her book, Boundaries, Lin
comments on the effect watching the film had on her memory of that
experience: "It wasn't until I saw the documentary," she observes, that
she "was able to remember that time in my life" (4:08). In a strange
parallel with Kim's story, it's through a public and visual document, a
biographical record made by another for an audience, that the artist was
able to take the measure of her private (and to quite different degrees, of
course, traumatic) experience. Lin recounted what she felt when she
looked at the site chosen for the monument. "I had a simple impulse to cut
into the earth. I imagined taking a knife and cutting into the earth, opening
it up, an initial violence and pain that in time would heal" (4:10) but that
"leaves a memory, like a scar" ("Making" 35).12 In Lin's vision of how the
cut would work over time, wound and trace would co-exist: "The grass
would grow back, but the initial cut would remain a pure flat surface in
the earth with a polished, mirrored surface, much like the surface on a
geode when you cut it and polish the edge" (4:10). For Kim, the pain
continues in her life both in her memory and her body, even though she
Here’s what’s next.
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/14/: accessed January 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .