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Redeemed at Countless Cost

The Recovery of Iconographic Theology and Religious Experience from 1850 to 2000


Stewart A. Dippel

This book traces a recovery of iconographic religious experience and theology in the nineteenth century. In contrast to a logocentric religious focus, which privileges texts and their analysis, an iconographic focus emphasizes the visual and narrative attributes of religion. The introduction sets the stage by discussing the profound disquietude in the wake of Britain’s Religious Census of 1851, along with the various responses to a perceived decline in religiosity. Two subsequent chapters deal with the resurgence of iconographic religion from the perspective of theology proper, arguing that contemporary theologians, such as those represented by the Yale School of Divinity, held to a more holistic as opposed to a fragmentary approach towards scripture. In doing so they came to center the scriptural stories on the events surrounding Christ’s passion. The remaining chapters trace the recovery of iconographic religion through American, Russian, and British culture throughout the nineteenth century. Ultimately, this book argues for a revision on the standard ‘read’ regarding these artists and writers which holds that they were predominantly secular in orientation.

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Chapter 2. Rosie the Riveter, Norman Rockwell, and Religious Iconography



Rosie the Riveter,Norman Rockwell, and Religious Iconography

Norman Rockwell’s “iconic” Rosie the Riveter fronted the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943. A few months before Rosie’s debut German forces at Stalingrad surrendered. With the earlier Allied victories at El Alamein and Midway the tide had turned, and Allied geo-political thinking shifted to the endgame and the post-war world. That spring, in short, was a point of transition, and points of transition always raise fears and hopes over what is to come and what is to be left behind. Hopes and fears nurture religion in general and prophecy in particular.

A complicated man, beset with sexual and other uncertainties, surrounded by his own hopes and fears, Rockwell lived a life of transition during this transformative time. It was a life of contradiction and change. He spent most of his adult life in psychotherapy, including seven years as a patient of Erik Erikson. Indeed, Erikson played a prominent role in the artist’s life. Aside from Rockwell himself, his second wife, Mary, and some of his children underwent extensive therapy. “You know,” Erikson once jokingly told him, “I think your family has logged more hours of psychiatric care than any other family in America.” This comment is ironic and suggestive of the tensions and contradictions surrounding his life. Rockwell’s work came to signify and represent an idyllic, a normative, vision of America as far as popular culture is concerned.←19 | 20...

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