Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One picture, myriad themes, one complex narrative

If I were to teach U.S. History again, I would start (and end) with this picture, which I just lifted from this morning's Drudge Report.

In this one picture are themes, not only of race relations in America (such a central issue from the first moments of Spanish and English settlement), but themes of technology (the jet plane), social mobility, optimism (the upward slant of the staircase), the decline of formalism in dress and the arts, the remaining differences of class (note one man's suit, the other's shirtsleeves and body language), the relationship between employer and employee (how subservient, what rights have been achieved, what roles have changed or remained), individualism and individual expression, the stature and limitations of the U.S. Presidency... and on and on.

One picture. One history course. An entire syllabus captured, introduced and summarized in this one evocative image.



alan brew said...

Claude, I love your interpretation of the symbolic significance of this image. Alas, I fear it is nothing more than sentiment wrapped around an incidental moment in time that represents nothing more than what it is: circumstantial evidence and therefore inadmissible.

brandsinger said...

Thanks for the legalistic critique, Alan. I defer to your observation. Perhaps, when I came across the image, I was lost in fall-time reveries.


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Elliott Broidy said...

I like this.