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An Icon of American Expansionism Essay

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As a nation born out of the desire to reject despotic rule and reinvent a new, non-Eurocentric model of the nation state, Americans during the nation’s nascent decades subscribed to a notion of anti-imperialism and relied upon a closed door approach to national foreign policy. Yet simultaneously, the United States engaged in acts of global expansion throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and by the arrival of the 20th century, the nation had reached an ideological crossroad. Following a series of foreign conflicts which left America as an active participant in global expansion and a growing world power, by the conclusion of the 19th century, the nation was forced to determine whether or not it would permanently adopt a national doctrine of expansion and Imperialism. In many ways, the female depiction of the United States in the 1901 issue of Puck Magazine can be seen as an embodiment of this crossroads: the subject serves as America’s domestic identity while many of the visual elements suggest at ways that said identity was shaped by the pursuit of expansion and Imperialism. Hence, by serving as a domestic example of the complicated turn of the century relationship between America and Neo-colonialism, which formatively impacted the nation’s 20th century foreign policy as well as concretely defined the nation’s 19th century foreign policy, the illustration can be seen as a personification of the physical identity produced by a century of independence in the Americas.
If the image is to be understood as what author Laura Wexler describes as “a kind of aesthetic and emotional contemplation... [to] an emergent middle-class readership” regarding domestic social, political, and cultural issues, then its objectives are twofold: t...


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...as interjected his or her own perception of the turn of the century American identity into the tapestry of the image, it is important to make the distinction between the artist’s beliefs about the subject and the artist’s intentions with the subject. Rather than suggest an interpretation, an effective “emotional contemplation” of America’s national identity following the century of independence, and resulting United States imperialism, in the Americas, must wholly consider the subject matter and highlight areas worthy of focus and discussion. While the artists can present his or her own critical perception of the subject, this portrayal of the American identity produced from 19th century in the Americas is still incomplete. Indeed, it is not until the external foreign perception of the image is considered that the image can truly be seen thoroughly reflective.



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