Universiteit Leiden

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PhD Defence

This is Roosevelt’s World

Tuesday 8 December 2015
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

Supervisor(s): Prof.dr. P.Th.M.G. Liebregts, Prof.dr. F.W.A. Korsten

This is Roosevelt's World cover

This PhD project uses methods from cultural analysis to illuminate a historical case study. It researches how US president Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) has contributed to his own status as a cultural icon, and on the other hand, how recent American representations ofFDR remember him. It coins and develops the concept of autofabrication – the autonomous production of a politician’s public image – to investigate the process of image production and management.

It concludes that Roosevelt presented himself as an extremely malleable vessel for a range of narratives – he fitted into many different frames. The fact that he was often implicit and suggestive made him mysterious and therefore intriguing to many audiences. For instance, Roosevelt was, as a result of adult-onset polio, wheelchair-bound, but made sure to keep his disability out of the public view. However, in recent films, documentaries and memorials representing him, the wheelchair has been very visible, and invested with interpretations about his strength of character and ability to deal with a crisis. Some of the things he did and said could indeed be interpreted as fitting that narrative, but that is due primarily to their rhetorical flexibility.

Understanding the dynamics of what we might now call a politician’s image management on the one hand, and the ideological needs and desires that drive cultural memory on the other, is important because the face-value perception of cultural memory is in the interest of the agents and ideologies at stake.

Press contact
Inès van Arkel, Science Communications Advisor               
T: 071 -5273282. E:  i.van.arkel@bb.leidenuniv.nl


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