Robert Avery

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Sandra J. Berkowitz

Second Committee Member

Nathan E. Stormer

Third Committee Member

Laura A. Lindenfeld


Through a critical rhetorical criticism of the 2001 postmodern-film noir, Memento. this thesis purports the particular salience of rhetorics of masculinity, violence and memory, and the necessity to interrogate both their polyvalence and intersectionality. Given that the film's DVD lucidly represents all three rhetorics and blurs the distinction between primary text and secondary text, it is included in the analysis of the film as "extra text." The criticism is operationalized by a critical lexicon coming out of feminist. cultural, film, and. primarily. rhetorical studies.

Using the concept of hegemonic masculinity. I purport that the film. at least through one reading. shows violence as a masculinist grammar. as a necessary means of restoring disabled masculinity, of negotiating the film's exigence of masculinity in crisis. This violence must be always redone in the face of rhetorical uncertainty. In its depiction of violence as the means of remembering masculinity, Memento (en)genders violence as a masculinist practice. Thus, the film puts forth a theory of violence-as-masculinist-epistemic-rhetoric. At the same time, afforded by the aperture of both/and postmodern logic and the critical roots of noir, izlcmento deconstructs its own preferred reading. The film problematizes the notion of an essentialized masculinity through its illustration of the futility of violent revenge. and in challenging the notion of disability by putting its viewers in a disabled state through its narrative.

The film goes further to critique violence-as-masculinist-epistemic-rhetoric by showing violence to be meaning-making. Memento does this by proffering a "violent surrogation" of a Platonic notion of memory as a storehouse of truth for a notion of memory as a material, re-collective, interpretive process. In this configuration. memory work is violence in that it is effecting of truth and falsity. This surrogation is violence also in that it is in violation of Platonic metaphysics and. concomitantly, phallogocentrism. Thus, the film puts forth an ultimately countervailing theory of violence as epistemic rhetoric.

In concert, Memento's rhetorics of masculinity, violence, and memory ultimately form an affront to hegemonic masculinity and phallogocentrism. Memento, then, becomes a site of resistance to patriarchy and a criticism of the masculinity-in-crisis narrative that has pervaded the American social.