Edward S. Casey on Public Memory

"Public memory is radically bivalent in its temporality, for it is both attached to a past (typically, an originating or traumatic event of some sort) and attempts to secure a future of further remembering of that same event. Public monuments embody this Janusian trait: their characteristic massiveness and solidity almost literally enforce this futurity, while inscriptions and certain easily identifiable features (such as those of the giant seated Abraham Lincoln of the Lincoln Memorial) pull them toward the past they honor. The perduringness of the construction itself acts to cement the strong bond between past and future. This is not to say that public memory requires the density of stone to mark and re-mark it. At another extreme, a eulogy is certainly a form of public remembering — it is pronounced before others and is meant to direct their attention to the character and accomplishments of the departed — yet it is built entirely from words: sounds that carry sense."

Edward S. Casey, from "Public Memory in the Making: Ethics and Place in the Wake of 9/11," in Architecture, Ethics, and the Personhood of Place, 2007

This is part of a collection of quotes related to cities. They don't necessarily reflect our views, just topics of interest. We welcome you to add others.

Credits: "Walking in an Exaggerated Manner around the Perimeter of a Square" (still), by Bruce Nauman, 1968.


  1. Wow, the obvious stated with maximum pomposity. I like seeing these quotes about cities, but this one made me hope it was satire.