Department of Communication
Public Address Conference
Courtney Caudle

Jacqueline Kennedy and the Politics of Popularity

This dissertation examines the ways in which Jacqueline Kennedy featured in popular media during her tenure as first lady. I analyze her visibility in such media as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, television, and Andy Warhol’s pop-art to suggest that her figuration in and as so-called “popular culture” complicates our understanding of the institutional constraints of the role of first lady. Specifically, I argue that these media placed primacy on Kennedy’s visuality—literally and figuratively, her picture and image—in a way that both changes the way in which the role of first lady might subsequently be performed and constitutes her iconic status. I contend that understanding Kennedy either as an ideal for veneration or as an object of scorn implicates her status as an icon, and I account for that status partly through close visual analyses that show her embodiment of certain topoi of the early Cold War era.

Courtney Caudle
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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