"Sighting" the public: Iconoclasm and public sphere theory

Cara A. Finnegan, Jiyeon Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This essay considers the ways that iconoclasm, or the will to control images and vision, appears in canonical and contemporary public sphere theory. John Dewey and Jürgen Habermas enact a paradoxical relation to visuality by repudiating a mass culture of images while preferring "good" images and vision. Yet even when advocating for good vision, both theorists activate a subtle iconoclasm that operates as a perennial tension in their work. The essay concludes by considering the ways in which iconoclasm manifests itself in more recent scholarship in rhetorical studies and suggests circulation as an analytic concept with some promise for helping public sphere theorists develop a more iconophilic relationship to images and vision. Public Sphere; Iconoclasm; John Dewey; Jürgen Habermas; Circulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-402
Number of pages26
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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