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(Ends October 16th.) In this 6-week Samplings subject, we read texts – chiefly poems and photographs — that have come to seem “iconic” in American culture. We consider what that designation means [what is a icon for? what work does a “canon” do? what does it permit? what does it inhibit or prevent?], and we look at how certain texts become iconic or formative. Often, we recognize historical moments or movements, and a journalist or writer documents the moment; eventually the documentation seems so completely to represent [or to embody] the moment that we interpret the text formally in order to understand the historical or Ideological or psychological nuances of the moment. Some texts directly aspire to that representative status [and sometimes in the moment some technicians manipulate the reality they portray]; some artists create texts that overtly offer themselves as useful models to be made iconic; some deliberately alter or play on the received dominant narrative or on a text/image that is already recognizable.

Poems [and some prose] by Walt Whitman, Emma Lazarus, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Robert Frost, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Edgar Allan Poe, AI [Florence Anthony], Marilyn Chin, James Weldon Johnson, others.

Pictures and images by Eadward Muybridge, Lewis Hine, Alfred Stieglitz, Diane Arbus,* Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, Joe Rosenthal, Sally Mann, Carrie Mae Weems, Edward S. Curtis, and others. Film by Charlie Chaplin.

*Here’s a useful fact: The character and appearance of Bart Simpson were based on Diane Arbus’ picture “Boy with toy hand grenade in Central Park, NYC, 1962” also used on the course poster.