JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 282
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memorates the collective suffering produced by the nation's war, Maya
Lin's memorial also makes room for individual stories, the singular
destiny attached to a single name: both the tear that rent the nation and the
tears that cannot forget that wound.
1. The diagnostic category of "post-traumatic stress disorder" was listed in
the American Psychiatric Association's manual in 1980 as a result of studies of
the psychological effects of war among Vietnam veterans (Herman 26-28). In
many ways, the discourse on trauma that has become a familiar part of American
culture was given legitimacy in the aftermath of the war. There's an interesting
irony in the fact that Kim, as we'll see later, participates in the language of injury
and healing that gained prominence in the post-Vietnam decades.
2. When the essay was collected in the 1977 book On Photography, Sontag
made a few revisions that I will include here. They are subtle but interesting:
"Photographs like the one that made the front page of most newspapers in the
world in 1972-a naked South Vietnamese child just sprayed by American
napalm, running down a highway toward the camera, her arms open, screaming
with pain-probably did more to increase the public revulsion against the war
than a hundred hours of televised barbarity" (18). The word "memorable" has
disappeared from the later text, probably because the line of argument Sontag is
following here has more to do with the political effect of images on the moment
and for public mobilization rather than the lasting effect in national consciousness.
3. Marita Sturken in Tangled Memories makes the case about the photograph
on similar grounds to Sontag's, but she focuses on the question of the expression
on Kim's face and the afterlife ofthe image: "The film image of the napalm strike
is more confusing than the still and does not capture the expression of the face
ofKim Phuc as clearly. Most significant, photographic images in general have
a greater capacity than moving images to achieve iconic status. Still images are
widely distributed in books and other publications, so people are more likely to
own copies of them; moreover, they possess an ability to connote completeness
and to evoke the past" (90). In thinking about iconic images, two related strands
emerge: the effects of the image in the immediate political context and the place
of the image in the historic national archive, in the preservation of national
memory. Both Sturken and Sontag describe the girl as running "toward the
camera." The fact of her facing the camera-meeting the viewers' eye, pleading
mutely for help-is also key to the image's power to move.
4. These characterizations come from the description of television news
segments established by a news service at Vanderbilt University.
5. In the same section of commentary, opera singer Beverly Sills also
universalizes about war from the photograph in which the girl and her specific
wound drop out: "This photograph, more than anything I remember, speaks the
horrors of war" (80).
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/m1/28/: accessed May 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .