Political Appropriations and the Construction of the Jefferson Icon in the United States Congress, 1934-1943

Caroline Heller


This essay analyses the rhetorical appropriation of Thomas Jefferson by diverse Congressmen between 1934 and 1943. The critical discourse analysis reveals how the consensual and dissentaneous interpretations and appropriations of Jefferson contributed to the construction of the “free-floating” Jefferson icon. I explain why depictions and appropriations of Jefferson as humanitarian, (Christian) radical, and Socialist became the saving grace during the years of social and economic crisis.


Jeffersonianism; Socialist Liberals; iconicity; practical Christianity; appropriation; discourse analysis

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