“Once were Romans” proclaims the ad for the Roman National Museum—a more discontinuous narrative with the present day than the Museum of London’s “You are Here.” While London museums invite their citizens to participate in a traditional progress narrative of lessons learned, Roman museums, I will argue, use their past as an epideictic promotion of the values that engender a globally praised vision of the communal Roman future. In this paper I explore those different stories, analyze what they imply about identity using the lens of the narrative “lifestories” described by social psychologists, and then complicate that analysis by positing a communal lifestory available (perhaps exclusively) to particular kinds of communities. As in Rome, in Lima the international appropriation of the lifestory of an ancient empire allows for the creation of a uniquely epideictic form of communal generativity. Together these models move theories of narrative lifestory beyond individuals to communities, posit a third narrative lifestory sequence, and affirm modern rhetorical definitions of epideictic as evoking not only lasting values but potential change.
|Keywords:||Identity, Narrative, Epideictic, Museum, Rhetoric|
Associate Professor, Rhetoric and Composition, Department of English, Ohio State University, Newark, OH, USA
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