Date Awarded

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Alan C Braddock

Committee Member

Susan V. Webster

Committee Member

Chandos M. Brown

Committee Member

Arthur Knight

Committee Member

Sarah Burns


Radiant Exposure analyzes how American painting, photography, cinema, and graphic design creatively visualized X-rays to represent the body under forms of invasive scrutiny. I will historicize a variety of works produced between 1895 and the present, which consist of actual X-ray photographs and artistic simulations of their visual effects. Visual culture scholars and art historians have identified the X-ray as an important development in modern experience, perception, and the visual arts, but they have situated the X-ray's aesthetic bearing in the first thirty years after Wilhelm Röntgen’s discovery of the X-ray. I argue that since their invention, X-rays have persisted in the realm of the corporeal spectacle, as a source of aesthetic captivation and a method of social control. My goals are to generate a new language for articulating the rich significance and specific influence of X-rays in American consciousness, through formal and historical analyses of visual culture that draw from X-rays' technological effects or appropriate them in different ways. More broadly, this project reveals how the subjectivity of American identity has projected onto the anonymous irradiated body in the visual arts, whether idealized or pathologized, made culturally visible or cloaked in invisibility. as Americans have become more transparent under modern surveillance, the X-rayed body in art and visual culture has become entangled with ideas about identity and power.



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