Mlk, Jr.: Ambiguous and Contested Icon

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Marin, Ileana

Grand Canyon - the Icon of the American Multiplicity

The Romanian Perspective

For the Romanians who wrote about America before 1989, the geographical encounter was the most reflected issue in their memories and tavelogs, deliberately ignoring the human encounter that could draw the attention of the ideological censorship. Thus the Grand Canyon has became the most suggestive icon of the American society based on democratic values, civil rights, and economical power.

Visiting America, the Romanians writers reconsider their contemporary history and describe it as the state which preserves Romanian lost ethical and democratic values, the mythical Earthly Paradise, on the one hand, and the biblical Promise Land, the hope for the future better times, on the other. Its splendour manifests at the physical level: for Ana Blandiana, the Romanian writer before 1989, a political leader after, geographical majesty of the Grand Canyon represents a transfigured former mineral civilization: a pyramid without its peak stands for Wotan’s Throne. No scientific explanation about the geological phenomena can decrease the metaphysical feeling the admirer experienced in front of the overwhelming natural scenery.

According to Grigorescu, canyon is the effigy of American nature and culture: wild, primitive patterns connote innocence and violence, pride and humiliation, luxury and poverty, eternity and mortality, vastness and enclosure, illimited power and weakness. Concrete and glass buildings, intricate highways remind the massive structure of the canyon; their steep rocks – the highest peaks and the lowest valleys stand for a metaphorical image of diversity. Geological layers concentrate an elementary allegory of the social classes whose emblems are their houses, cars, clubs, and favorites stores.

The Grand Canyons remain the millenary hallmark of this Newly Born World. In Dan Grigorescu’s book, geographical and human elements are impossible to be separate, and this seems to be the constant characteristic of the country as large as a continent.
While the descriptions before 1989 are mainly geographical, those after 1989 are interested in the human encounter. As regards the obsessing refrain of the Grand Canyon, Vera Calin, a Romanian exile in LA, refuses to describe it since she considers Gran Canyon has beccome a cliché in the Romanian texts about America. “The huge geological deed of Colorado” is anthropomorphized and signifies the apotheotic end of her life. The insignificant dimension of human being struggling with history and nature is confronted with that divine magnificence which bears an allegorical message at the end of the book.

Mettauer, Susanne

Air & Style: Michael Jordan Continues to Fly

Even after repeated retirements and comebacks, Michael "Air" Jordan is probably the most successful and popular basketball player of all times, and one of the most visible and lucrative African Americans in global media culture. As a sportsperson, he represents athletic excellence and competition. His association with numerous sponsors, particularly the Nike company, makes him an icon of capitalist consumer culture. The particular Jordan style, in the spotlight of the basketball court and elsewhere, highlights black cultural creativity with such attendant attributes as performance, improvisation, and spontaneity. As an example of virtually unlimited black achievement, Jordan is the incorporation of the "Hoop Dreams" of uncountable black inner city youth—yet a figure who remains in godlike distance for the overwhelming majority of them. And despite a long tradition in white American society to regard the black male body as a menace, whites, too, admire Jordan's feats and want to "Be Like Mike."

In my presentation, I want to analyze how Jordan as a cultural icon has become the space onto which these various and often ambiguous images and notions have been projected. Considering all these functions, it will become clear that Jordan is indeed a "polysemic signifier," as Douglas Kellner put it, encouraging mainstream but also counterhegemonic readings, transcending as well as reinforcing racial connotations. But I also want to focus on the broader implications of this iconic status for the person who functions as a signifier. Does the role as cultural icon entail a sense of accountability and agency, a social dimension? Or has Jordan himself been turned into a commodity, an image that is out of his control and responsibility?

Miller, Char Roone

Icons and Democracy: Neither Palace Nor Temple Nor Tomb

“The monument is neither palace nor temple nor tomb,” wrote Helen Nicolay of the Lincoln Memorial. What then, it is fair to ask, is it? Or more generally, what does monumental architecture do? This article relies on Walter Benjamin's account of the appropriation of architecture to examine some of the discussion concerning the creation and use of the Lincoln Memorial. In spite of the interest of the creators in organizing a site that would demonstrate intellectual and aesthetic harmony-“the landscape architectural treatment,” wrote Irving Payne (Landscape Architect, Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital), “is one whose elements have been successfully blended into a harmonious whole”-the monument and its creation can be seen to represent possibly contradictory accounts of political and social power. This article explores the contradictory ways, in which the memorial is palace, temple, tomb, and, as Nicolay went on to suggest, log cabin-“oddly enough, its stately outlines have much in common with those of the rude square cabin in which he first saw light.” What could embody greater contradiction and less harmony than a marble temple representing a log cabin?

Neset, Arne

The Hunter and the Hunted as Icons in late 19th Century American Art.

The paper is an exploration of the significance of the hunter as an icon in American art. The hunter is an old image and in America it goes of course back to the beginnings of European settlement and exploitation of the resources of the virgin land. The paper will focus on the ambiguous meanings of the hunter as represented in late 19th century American art in the more kitschy paintings by Frederic Remington and in the highly sophisticated Adirondacks paintings by Winslow Homer. In Homer's paintings and watercolors from the Adirondacks in the 1890s the professional guide and hunter takes the place of Bingham's trappers in the canoe. It is a theme Homer developed over more than thirty years from his early oil painting called An Adirondack Lake (The Trapper, Adirondacks) (1870), to his watercolors from the same area in the 1890s.

Theodore Roosevelt contributed enormously to the ideals and practice of the manly outdoors and the strenuous life after 1900. As president he supported a budding conservation movement, extended the national parks and wildlife refuges and initiated the system of national monuments, such as the Grand Canyon. He was not only the hero of the Rough Riders storming Kettle Hill outside Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898, but also the great outdoorsman, hiker, camper, hunter and bird watcher. He liked to be photographed wearing the hunter's clothes and gear and to be seen as a big game hunter not only in America but in other continents as well. He also wrote several books about his own hunting experiences like The Wilderness Hunter (1893), Good Hunting (1907), African Game Trails (1910), topics that were continued by Ernest Hemingway 25 years later in Green Hills of Africa.

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