What’s a manifesto?

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Japan. Photo Credit: Catherine Keefe

The most memorable manifestos have altered the way we think and do. A manifesto should be a declaration of war against complacency.

Steven Heller, design critic.
To read Heller’s introduction to an art exhibit dedicated to manifestos, click here.

According to ENG 103 students, with a little help from Google, Wikipedia, and dictionary.com, here’s a rudimentary definition of manifesto. (And yes, we know those are not solid sources, but they are where we began our exploration.)

A manifesto:

  • Is a written document that pertains to an individual’s belief.
  • Is written with an aggressive or passionate tone; it’s used to spark social debate.
  • Is a proclamation of one’s set of beliefs arranged in order to prove his or her point.
  • Is a personal opinion, expressed through strong thoughts that turn so persuasive they become fact. POV is key.
  • Is a public declaration, supported by facts, statistics, history, background information and examples.
  • Is a declaration of a set of morals that provides alternate solutions to what exists.
  • Originated from words: Latin manifestes, and Italian manifestare . “readily perceived by the eye, evident.”
  • Can be written about anything, but the central idea must be supported by evidence.
  • Makes use of emotion, or pathos, to persuade.
  • Must be strongly believed in by the author(s).

Students’ list of famous manifestos throughout history:

About Catherine Keefe

Catherine Keefe is the founding and managing editor of *dirtcakes* a journal of poetry, creative nonfiction, art and photography. Her creative nonfiction essays, interviews and book reviews have appeared nationally. She teaches undergraduates how to Write About Literature, or Write Creative Nonfiction, or Compose Self at Chapman University in Orange, CA.
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