This article mines the work of philosopher Paul Ricoeur in order to construct a critical framework for the rhetorical analysis of public memory. Through a reading of Ricoeur's concept of "threefold mimesis," I develop the idea of the "agential spiral." The "spiral" frames a repetitive yet progressive process in which a series of agents or groups of agents both interpret and act in response to the past. When linked together, these moments of agency form a spiral that metaphorizes the process of creating and deploying public memories across time. I argue that the concept of the agential spiral enables scholars to focus not only on the ways that memories unite human agents synchronically but also on how those memories structure a relationship among agents across time through the performance and representation of agency. I situate this argument within scholarship on rhetorical studies and public memory.