American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Morality and Aspiration: Some Conditions of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Rebecca Mancuso (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Laura Sanchez (Other)

Third Advisor

Charles Coletta (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Hershberger (Committee Member)


The compendium of scholarly investigation in art history woefully lacks acknowledgement of perhaps the most widely known American artist of the 20th century. Norman Rockwell created works that caused non-critics to identify with understanding their sense of American identity. Rockwell also created works that caused critics to mention him by name a chief arbiter of middlebrow repression. Rockwell’s work would later be signposted as a callback to a mythical, simpler time in America. This research considers the aforementioned, exploring Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, often recalled, reinvented and discussed as symbols of American morality and aspiration. Through a focused investigation of these four works, this research defines elements of “hyper-American” expression as a subsidiary of mid-century American kitsch. Rockwell’s expressions of Americana define the rhetoric of self-realized identity that has been copied, popularized, examined, and re-examined in many areas of popular culture.