Despite the work that has been done on the power of visual communication in general, and about the social influence of television in particular, television’s relationship with reality is still something of a black box. Even today, the convention that the screen functions as a window on reality structures much of the production and reception of televisual narratives. But as reality ought to become history at one point, what are we to do with such windows on the past?

Developing and applying a highly innovative approach to the modern picture, American Icons sets out to expose the historicity of icons, to reframe the history of the screen and to dissect the visual core of a medium that is still so poorly understood. Dismantling the aura of apparently timeless icons and past spectacles with their seductive power to attract the eye, this book offers new ways of seeing the mechanisms at work in our modern pictorial culture.

chapter |6 pages


part |2 pages

PART A Icons in the Museum

chapter 1|9 pages

Collecting Pictures

chapter 2|5 pages

Collecting Language

part |2 pages

PART B Kaleidoscopic Spectacles

chapter 3|8 pages

Pictorial Historiography

chapter 4|8 pages

The Insignia of the Spectacle

chapter 5|16 pages

Pictorial Genres

chapter 6|18 pages

The Narrative of the News Spectacle

chapter 7|21 pages

Iconic Lecterns

part |2 pages

PART C Hyperrealism

chapter 9|14 pages

Pictorial Supremacy

chapter 11|13 pages

The Icon of Lucy: Queen of Television Comedy

chapter 14|12 pages

Muhammad Ali: Champion of the Screen

chapter 15|6 pages


part |2 pages


chapter 16|27 pages

Four Codes of Visual Language

chapter 18|11 pages

Notes on the Pragmatics of Visual Language

chapter 19|7 pages

Glossary: Four Codes of Visual Language