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:

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