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Author:Freda, IsabelleYear: 2009
Dissertation Title:Screening biopolitics: The presidential campaign film and Cold War aesthetics

This dissertation examines the origin and development of Cold War aesthetics in film and television from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. My approach to this topic emphasizes the decisive role of representation in visual culture in the constitution of power in the United States in the post-war period, even as I take a deconstructive view of presidential leadership, a contruct I call the "Cold War Leviathan" in a re-working of Thomas Hobbes's famous figure. While this study is laid out chronologically, each chapter focuses on a different component of Cold War aesthetics. In Chapter One I broaden our understanding of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "modern presidency," including the role of visual culture and electronic media in understanding how presidential power is crafted and maintained. In doing this, I identify the figuration of power in crisis (begun in the New Deal) as an integral element of what would become, by Roosevelt's death, the nuclear National Security State. The presidential transition upon Roosevelt's death displays, on the one hand, the power of official aesthetics centered upon the figure of the president and, on the other, an increasing autonomy of a national security establishment centered upon the secret of the Bomb.

In Chapter Two I move to look at live television in the case of Dwight D. Eisenhower whose crucial, transitional presidential portrait marks the consolidation of Cold War aesthetics, now refined within the fast-changing contours of the television industry, advertising and the military-industrial complex.

In Chapter Three I examine the evolution of 'presidential intimacy' and the rhetoric of live television through a close analysis of highlights in the long career of Richard Nixon. Nixon's famous "Checkers" speech provides a revealing mapping of the ideology of live television and its intersection with McCarthyism. Nixon's 1968 campaign, on the other hand, displays the breakdown of Cold War aesthetics as it was pressed to its most extreme articulation to date. In Chapter Four I show how this breakdown is "resolved" in the cybernetic re-tooling of official aesthetics exemplified in the Reaganesque "photo-op" and the interplay of stardom and absence it inscribed.

Document: Full Text PDF and Hard Copy can be accessed through Proquest Doc ID 1757065081
Non-NYU: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database
Publication Number: AAT 3342416
Pages: 349
Advisor: McCarthy, Anna
Keywords: Biopolitics, Campaign, Nuclear, Presidents, Technology, Television, Film, Presidential campaign, Cold War