“This Is Roosevelt’s World” – FDR as a Cultural Icon in American Memory
PhD defense of 8 December 2015, Leiden University
“Take a look at our present world. It is manifestly not Adolf Hitler’s world. His Thousand-Year Reich turned out to have a brief and bloody run of a dozen years. It is manifestly not Joseph Stalin’s world. That ghastly world self-destructed before our eyes. Nor is it Winston Churchill’s world. Empire and its glories have long since vanished into history. The world we live in today is Franklin Roosevelt’s world.” – Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., 1998.
Is today’s world Franklin Roosevelt’s? Sara Polak’s dissertation studies the construction of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a cultural icon in American memory, particularly by FDR himself. It inquires how the Roosevelt icon has developed diachronically and who has exerted agency over it, and asks how that icon functions culturally and ideologically in the present. How can one contribute to one’s future image as an icon? And how can the remembrance of icons serve the present?