Visual discourses of the role of women in war commemoration
A multimodal analysis of British war monuments
Discourses of war are disseminated and legitimised not only through speeches and written texts, but through visual semiotic resources. One important vehicle for this has been the war monument. Evidence shows that from WW1 in Europe and the US monuments have been used systematically by authorities to recontextualise the realities of war and soldiery, suppressing much of what comprises war, avoiding any critical stance, while fostering celebratory discourses of nation, protection and noble sacrifice. The representation of women on the war monument has been particularly important in this recontexualisation. Using Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis to examine the discourses realised by British war monuments, this paper shows that while much of the way women participate in and experience war has been suppressed on war monuments. Their representation has been a key part of the legitimation of one particular discourse of war, a representation that has helped to sideline other possible discourse in British society and which is still used in the commemoration of the death of ‘our boys’ — such as the young men killed in Afghanistan.
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