The Photograph

Let us pray...


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Current: Danbury, CT, United States
Welcome! A few years ago, I discovered an application that artists employ in their works to bring cultural awareness to their audiences. Having discerned this semiotic theory that applies to literature, music, art, film, and the media, I have devoted the blog, "Theory of Iconic Realism" to explore this theory. The link to the publisher of my book is below. If you or your university would like a copy of this book for your library or if you would like to review it for a scholarly journal, please contact the Edwin Mellen Press at the link listed below. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Thank you for visiting. I hope you will find the information insightful. ~ Dr. Jeanne Iris

To view my page on the Edwin Mellen Press website, please click below:

18 April, 2017

Walt Whitman and Iconic Realism

Adler Planetarium Astronomy Museum, Art Institute of Chicago

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

In Walt Whitman's poem, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer, the speaker leaves an astronomy lecture to step outside the fixed parameters of the building. Subsequently, this individual learns first hand of the beauty when viewing the same firmament of which the lecturer speaks but viewed simply with the naked eye in silence. By leaving the lecture, the speaker, with scientific information gained from the the astronomer's lecture inside, now enjoys the silent beauty with appreciated knowledge, but more importantly, with appreciation of the significance of the stars’ natural condition. 

This poem illustrates iconic realism in that the subject,  constellations in a contrived setting, brings the audience and the speaker in the poem to a recognition that education of natural phenomena includes the experience of the real connection between humanity with nature. 

I warmly thank the Art Institute of Chicago for purchasing a copy of my book, The Theory of Iconic Realism: Understanding the Arts through Cultural Context.

09 April, 2017

Semiotic Theory of Iconic Realism: Definition

Below is my theory of iconic realism. I will bring it up to the front page periodically for reference purposes. 

Realism comprises authentic and independent aspects of the natural world, which individuals comprehend through sensory perception. The term icon describes a realistic person or realistic object, categorically perceived by a population as representative of a specific human activity or an object that bears significance to human activity. Iconic realism, then, involves the placement of an icon within the midst of a unique realistic setting, out of place for this particular icon, creating a static coalescence of the icon with the designated realism. Since both the icon and the realistic setting represent an aspect of the culture, the resulting dissonance between these two entities is the catalyst that generates enlightenment of a cultural dilemma.

An example of iconic realism would be an artist’s placement of Jesus the Christ or a representation of this icon of Christian philosophy, in the midst of a shopping mall on a Sunday afternoon, an aspect of the real world. This individual in this setting would generate enlightenment of the cultural dilemma, stirring a new consciousness that exists within cognitive dissonance of Christianity and activity within the designated reality of materialism during this particular time in history and locale. 

Touchdown Jesus @ University of Notre Dame, Indiana, U.S.A.

03 April, 2017

Inspiration and Iconic Realism

Once a member of the choir at my Church, often I had the privilege of seeing the reaction of the congregation to the priest's homily. The way this poem illustrates iconic realism is that we have a real individual, sitting in the iconic Catholic Mass, listening to the rhetoric of a priest, however, the spirit comes not from the dogmatic words of the priest's mind, but from another spiritual source within that reality and thus illustrates that the mind, heart, soul connection rests within individuals. Their inner response to relevant awareness can move consciousness in a positive direction. 

The photograph is one which I took at the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Reims, France. It illustrates iconic realism and my poem below, too. There, an iconic statue and one refurbished, standing side by side, reveal enlightenment through art. Through this restorative project, talent reveals beauty in a cathedral, where souls are restored daily. 

Her eyes met those
of the congregation
by sententious words 
from a pallid pen
failing to touch
her heart or mind or soul.

So she breathed, 
inhaled the Spirit
who whispered to her,
“You are whole and wonderful.”
Exhaling a slow smile,
she sang a silent hymn,
a renaissance de cœur.

© Jeanne I. Lakatos 

26 March, 2017

Literary Harmony and Iconic Realism in Sydney Owenson's novel, _The Wild Irish Girl_

Photo from insert of the 1888 publication of The Wild Irish Girl by Sydney Owenson

Iconic realism intones throughout Sydney Owenson’s national tale, The Wild Irish Girl, written from a feminine cultural point of view shortly after the British Act of Union 1801.

Sydney Owenson engages in the construction of iconic realism through her interface with the concept of literary harmony elicited from the initial resonance of Irish revolution. She creates characters as iconic representatives of the consciousness that exists in her historical reality, leading her audiences to a recognizable semblance of truth and a basis for future writers to harmonize with the transitioning, historical significance of human consciousness.

Such resonance, which distinguishes between intense reality and strength of the human spirit through iconic realism, occurs in Owenson’s novel, demonstrating the necessity for humankind to relate to one another on a realistic rather than a symbolic level. 

14 March, 2017

Sydney Owenson's "Lay of an Irish Harp" and Iconic Realism

(Photo of Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan) from New York Public Library)

In her 1807 lyrical collection, Lay of an Irish Harp, Sydney Owenson uses the iconic imagery of a harp to scrutinize the resonating cry for enlightened human consciousness shortly after the Act of Union 1801 has been enforced. She illustrates the harmonics of human intellect surrounding the Irish message of perseverance in times of hardship and indignity suffered when human rights are ignored, using rhythmic structure within her poetics and iconic allusions through intricate semiotic fusion of philosophy and history. According to her memoirs, Owenson’s aspiration was as follows: 

...to make my native country better known, and to dissipate the political and religious prejudices that hindered its prosperity…Neither lovers, friends, nor flatterers, ever turned my attention from the steady, settled aim of my life-- and that was to advocate the interest of my country in my writings…        

When enlightenment merely reflects the ignorance of cultural bias, the abrasive consciousness of society suppresses creative exploration and moves into a mire of lost intentions and spiritual limitation. Owenson begins a personal quest to enlighten her contemporaries of a plausible if not impossible endeavour for the Irish and the British to maintain a semblance of harmony in Ireland. She uses the aural traditions of harp music and the power in lyrical structure to express innovative concepts through the traditional aural experiences of narratives and music.  Kate Bowan and Paul Pickering remark: 

Music is central to the formation of identities whether national, ethic, religious, or political as it can by virtue of being a social activity, include or exclude, and is open to countless reshaping and re-articulations in various contexts.

Thus, Owenson’s literary works demonstrate an iconic vision in the midst of dissonance, as she focuses her reading audience’s attention on discordant elements within nineteenth century Irish society that need transformation. (excerpt from my paper, read at the Association for Franco-Irish Studies conference in Dublin, Ireland, 2012)

28 February, 2017

William Butler Yeats' "The Tower II" and Iconic Realism

I took this photograph of Thoor Ballylee a few years ago.

I pace upon the battlements and stare
On the foundations of a house, or where
Tree like a sooty finger, starts from the earth;
and send imagination forth
Under the day’s declining beam, and call
Images and memories
From ruin or from ancient trees,
For I would ask a question of them all.
(“The Tower II,” ll. 18-25) [1]

Here, Yeats places himself in the midst of the Tower, the earthen icon of the human soul. Born of the ancient source of all life, this soul’s power rests in the simplicity of a child’s voice, echoing for the “blind man’s joy.” This simplicity is so powerful that “certain men, be[come] maddened by those rhymes,” (l. 42) a magnificent union of the duality existent in imagination and reality. 

To further illustrate this duality, Yeats incorporates the iconic representation of “The Great Memory” to signify the reality of human consciousness. The speaker is out of control while at the same time, he is in control, “Come old, necessitous, half-mounted man;/And bring beauty’s blind rambling celebrant” (ll. 91-2). This ambivalence, accented with alliteration, leads to Yeats’s revelation that from chaos comes order and from dissonance, consonant harmony. He continues with his reference to human consciousness with an allusion to his recurrent swan’s song: “When the swan must fix his eye/ Upon a fading gleam, /Float out upon a long/Last reach of glistening stream/And there sing his last song” (ll. 141-45). 

The central theme of this poem is the realization of life’s paradox that art is both illusion and ideal. When Yeats reveals through the alliteration and rapid meter of “Man makes a superhuman/Mirror-resembling dream” (ll.165-66), he draws upon his references of the Easter Uprising and WWI in which reality of life recreates itself through the restructuring of chaos. 

Yeats’s iconic-bucolic imagery of singing birds in the introductory and concluding lines of “The Tower” reinforce his message of universal harmony that echoes throughout the sphere of life’s transformations. His final lines, “Seem but the clouds of the sky/When the horizon fades,/ Or a bird’s sleepy cry/ Among the deepening shades” (ll.193-96), indicate his reconciliation of life, art, Ireland and reality. It is not by accident that this poem leads directly to “Meditations in Time of Civil War.” 

In “The Tower,” Yeats illustrates the necessity for humanity to acknowledge the reality of life’s paradox and to nurture human consciousness with eyes wide open to human frailties as well as the glorious harmony present in one's creative endeavors.

[1] Yeats, William Butler. The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. (Hertfordshire, G.B.: Wordsworth Editions, Ltd., 2000)

[2] Lakatos, Jeanne. The Theory of Iconic Realism: Understanding the Arts through Cultural Context. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2008, pp. 54-55.

23 February, 2017

Mother Teresa and Iconic Realism

Recently, I was reading an article about Mother Teresa of Calcutta. As I read of her selfless acts of love among the diseased and poverty stricken, I realized that her life story is an example of iconic realism. As a Catholic nun, she epitomized the concept of purity in mind and body. Yet, there she was, providing comfort to a population from which many would rather turn away. Through her presence in this challenging setting, she demonstrated the necessity for human compassion. 
One of my favorite quotes from this brilliant woman is as follows: "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

16 February, 2017

Brian Eno's Ambient Music and Iconic Realism (Click here to view and hear video of Eno's Earth, An Ending)

From my book: 
Some musical composers apply electronically produced music with natural sounds from the environment to provide the audience with a real association, such as wildlife, bodies of water, seasonal sound sources, and weather phenomena. This particular form of musical presentation, known as ambient music, for its affect on the ambience of one’s surroundings, is often recorded for health facilities.
An example of such musical composition is the healing music of composer, Brian Eno, and his 1978 release, Ambient I: Music for Airports. In the liner of this album, Eno writes, “My intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres.” [1] This form of incorporating musical sounds with nature provides the added aesthetic of stimulating the senses with a portion of reality to which the audience relates through memory, transporting an individual to an aspect of memory, aligning the audience with the composer’s perception of reality.
        In his musical composition, Earth, An Ending, he provides the audience with a reality that heightens awareness of the possibility of positive cultural change either within an individual or within Earth’s community as a whole.
[1] Eno, Brian. Music for Airports/Ambient 1. Liner notes. PVC 7908 (AMB 001), 1978. 

01 February, 2017

Longfellow's "Evangeline" and Iconic Realism (Click onto this title to hear the song, Evangeline, sung by Annie Blanchard en français)

Photo from Google Images

My favorite narrative poem, Evangeline, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, beautifully illustrates the theory of iconic realism. Longfellow writes of an iconic love between two Acadian villagers, separated by imperialistic orders of the British military.

As the two lovers set off on their lifelong quest, alone yet jointly searching through the American wilderness with hope of an eventual reunion, the audience becomes aware of diminishing cultures across this vast continent as one community gains control over another with little regard for cultural tolerance. In the final stanza of this epic poem, Longfellow illustrates that a culture, like love, may go through changes, but with God's gift of human perseverance, both a culture and love will prevail:

Still stands the forest primeval; but far away from its shadow, 
Side by side, in their nameless graves, the lovers are sleeping. 
Under the humble walls of the little Catholic churchyard, 
In the heart of the city, they lie, unknown and unnoticed; 
Daily the tides of life go ebbing and flowing beside them, 
Thousands of throbbing hearts, where theirs are at rest and forever, 
Thousands of aching brains, where theirs no longer are busy, 
Thousands of toiling hands, where theirs have ceased from their labors, 
Thousands of weary feet, where theirs have completed their journey! 
Still stands the forest primeval; but under the shade of its branches 
Dwells another race, with other customs and language. 
Only along the shore of the mournful and misty Atlantic 
Linger a few Acadian peasants, whose fathers from exile 
Wandered back to their native land to die in its bosom; 
In the fisherman's cot the wheel and the loom are still busy; 
Maidens still wear their Norman caps and their kirtles of homespun, 
And by the evening fire repeat Evangeline's story, 
While from its rocky caverns the deep-voiced, neighboring ocean 
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

(Longfellow, Evangeline, Part II, Canto V)

22 January, 2017

The Tiny Hand of Samuel Armas

Photo from Google Images

In 1999, Michael Clancy captured on film the little hand of Samuel Armas, held here by Vanderbilt University Hospital surgeon, Dr. Joseph Bruner. The iconic element here is the hand of the human fetus, for it represents life, innocence, complete vulnerability.

This is an excellent example of iconic realism in photography, for one usually would not think that the connection between a 21 week old human in the womb and a surgeon could physically take place in this manner. 

One cultural dilemma that this photograph reveals is that even though there exist limitations and possibilities of medical science,  the beauty in the touch of a human hand is a divine statement that life is precious and can be meaningful... from the womb... before birth!

04 January, 2017

"Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and Iconic Realism

The significant "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is another illustration of iconic realism. From behind bars, King wrote this eloquent epistle, begun in the margins of discarded newspapers, then from a borrowed legal notepad. In this piece, he elaborately describes his educated and passionate belief in freedom of speech. Written in April, 1963, he had no access to a computer, nor spellcheck, yet his hand-written expression is clear, coherent, concise, and cohesive, utilizing classical rhetoric to elucidate for his audience the possibilities that could evolve from cultural reform.
To view an excellent rhetorical analysis of this letter, click onto the link below:
Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"