It is not surprising that the Library of Congress would be defined as our national monument of art given the scale of the project, its federal sponsorship, and its posture as a public library with access to all Americans. Paralleling the assumption of the Library of Congress as not merely a building for housing books but a ritualistic center of civilization, the ambitious decorative program celebrated Western civilization and, in particular, the evolution of culture through knowledge. This article examines two mural cycles at the Library of Congress, The Evolution of the Book by John White Alexander and The Evolution of Civilization by Edwin Blashfield, considering each as a multivalent construction of American national identity and the critical debates that they generated. The male body was the subject of both cycles and functioned as the ideological armature within which to project current assumptions of and debates about masculinity, labor, imperialism, social reform, national identity, and progress.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Library and Information Sciences