Cultural Icons: A Case Study Analysis of their Formation and Reception.

Parker, Mike (2012) Cultural Icons: A Case Study Analysis of their Formation and Reception. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis addresses the contested and poorly defined subject area of cultural iconicity. Careful consideration of three specific uses of the term - in the popular media, as a new way of articulating national identity, and in academic publications - reveals the extent to which the term is currently poorly comprehended and misapplied. The research proposes the introduction of tighter defining parameters to cultural iconography and presents an original definition against existing work in the field.
The main aim, therefore, is straightforward; to attempt to answer the general question, what are cultural icons? To meet this end a definition of iconicity will be proposed consisting of four inter-connected conditions comprising, a) distinctness of image, b) durability of image, c) reproducibility of image and d) the tragic-dramatic narrative inherent in the image. The decision to implement such a definition is supported by a range of theoretical influences, from the ideas on perception developed by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, to recent work on the dramatic impact of tele-visual images. The philosophical influence applies the idea that human perception is strongly drawn towards tragic-dramatic forms - the tragic-dramatic narrative of cultural icons being an essential component of the definition - while new research into how images impact on common memory supports this application.
The method adopted attacks the central question in three ways. Firstly, by applying throughout the work an original and practical working definition of cultural iconicity. Secondly, by differentiating the properties of primary cultural icons from other important cultural symbols (as in, for example, comparing cultural icons to photographic iconography and non-image based cultural myths). Third, a series of in-depth case studies applying the definition to real examples, which will be the crux of the project and, if successful, may prove not only an original contribution to knowledge in this new and exciting area of research, but should also appeal to a wider, non-academic readership.

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