Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Rachel Spilka

Committee Members

David Clark, Shevaun Watson, Patricia Mayes, Carolyn Eichner


Identity, Italy, Memory, Politics, World War II, Yugoslavia


In the early 1990s, Italy’s former Fascist party, the newly renamed Alleanza Nazionale (AN), began to promote a new interpretation of events that occurred in the final stages of World War II. In collaboration with local and national civic organizations, the AN promoted this rendition of history by publishing fictionalized memoirs and popular narratives, producing a nationally aired television drama, and finalizing the construction of a new national monument. The Basovizza Monument was officially inaugurated on February 10, 2007, and is now a popular attraction for tourists and classroom visits. This monument is the subject of my case study. My research questions concern how identity can be constructed by the rebranding and marketing of public memory, and how public memory and identity, enacted through the interaction of multiple layers of rhetorical constructs, can be used as a persuasive strategy.

This study followed Yin’s (2014) model of a single-case qualitative research study, in which I evaluated multiple types of data and looked for recurring themes presented textually and visually. I used diverse case study methods to strengthen methodological triangulation and to maximize the scope of my inquiry. A key method in data collection was observation of the monument, including its physical structure, the symbols and text presented in various forms on the monument, and the surrounding site. I conducted interviews with stakeholders in the monument’s construction and inauguration, tour guides at the monument site, and scholars from Italy and Slovenia. I analyzed different forms of contextual discourse that supported the monument’s construction and public appeal, including popular narratives, television programs, films, and historical texts, many of which were produced and distributed through collaborative efforts of civic nationalist organizations and local and national political parties.

Theoretical intertextuality allowed me to develop a versatile articulation of the complex interaction of public memory, history, and identity construction. I applied the Discourse-Historical Approach, a methodology developed by critical discourse analyst Ruth Wodak (2001, 2015), to structure my analysis and identify discursive strategies and recurring topoi that are deployed in visual and textual features of the monument. The DHA allowed for a micro-level analysis of the individual discursive and visual elements that appear on the monument and in contextual materials and for a macro-level analysis of how these components interact to produce what Kenneth Burke terms a “terministic screen,” a mode of perception that reinforces and maintains the knowledge produced and legitimized by the monument.

My analysis is framed within current and traditional theories on the rhetorical construction of identity (Bucholtz and Hall 2005; Halbwachs 1950; Ricoer 2004; Wodak, de Cillia, Reisigl, and Liebhart 1999) and the rhetoric of public memorial sites (Dickenson, Blair, and Ott 2010). I argue that the monument enacts a rhetorical situation that both produces a narrative and reproduces established narratives that are legitimized within culturally mediated power systems. Like good technical writing, which, as Bernadette Longo states “is so clear that it is invisible” (Longo 2000, ix), the partiality of the narrative evoked by the Basovizza Monument is invisible, due to the normativity of form and content and deployment of established legitimized themes. In my analysis, I show how the controversy, deliberations, and power struggles among local civic organizations, regional political parties, and the Italian government that underscored the construction and inauguration of the monument as a site of national memory are masked in the presentation of the final product.

I conclude by showing how my analysis of the Basovizza Monument can broaden our understandings of how constructions of identity and presentations of diversity can be produced by multiple rhetorical constructs in civic, professional settings, and educational settings. I then propose some ways that we, as scholars, educators, and public citizens (and non-citizens) can expand ways that we critically assess how the normalization of extreme views and the production of inclusion and exclusion can work to secure power.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons