American Icons : The Genesis of a National Visual Language book cover
1st Edition

American Icons
The Genesis of a National Visual Language

ISBN 9780415956352
Published November 13, 2007 by Routledge
296 Pages

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Book Description

Despite the work that has been done on the power of visual communication in general, and about the social influence of television in particular, television’s relationship with reality is still something of a black box. Even today, the convention that the screen functions as a window on reality structures much of the production and reception of televisual narratives. But as reality ought to become history at one point, what are we to do with such windows on the past?

Developing and applying a highly innovative approach to the modern picture, American Icons sets out to expose the historicity of icons, to reframe the history of the screen and to dissect the visual core of a medium that is still so poorly understood. Dismantling the aura of apparently timeless icons and past spectacles with their seductive power to attract the eye, this book offers new ways of seeing the mechanisms at work in our modern pictorial culture.

Table of Contents



Part A: Icons in the Museum

Part B: Kaleidoscopic Spectacles

Part C: Hyperrealism


Glossary: Four Codes of Visual Language


Listing of Sources


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Benedikt Feldges currently works at the FEBL, Institute of Continuous Education, Kanton Baselland, in Switzerland.


"Feldges argues that historians must abandon the idea that pictures can be used to construct a history of what they seem to depict, embracing instead a study of visual "etymology" – that is, tracing a path of how images came to be encoded with commonly understood meanings.... the book offers both a theoretical framework for a more complex understanding of visual language, as well as a glimpse of what visual language looked like when broadcast still ruled the day." --Jason Tocci, International Journal of Communication