An iconography is an index of icons. One of the first is contained in the Iconologia
of Cesare Ripa in 1593 (see the facsimile edition),
designed primarily for literary and artistic purposes. French
cultural"icons" or symbols represent France and its culture. For now, the origin of that representation is irrelevant, whether it comes from French intention or evolved from frequent encounters by visitors. To a limited extent, a cultural icon is like the literary synecdoque, where a part represents the whole. Yet in this rhetorical figure, the will and skill of the individual artist are the principal forgers of symbolic status. It is said that each person has two countries, his or her own and France. The experience that draws this status to France has a million faces and as many personal symbols. What is important, then, is to choose broadly accepted symbols.
I have included some quite modern cultural icons, even though there is a risk they
may evolve away from that status, as did the "2CV" automobile. Some of the choices
are obvious. One must always give serious consideration to images on the French Euro coins, the French Eurobanknotes (no longer in use), and the stamps of the realm. In other
cases, I discerned the status by observing frequent representation in textbooks and subsequent polling of French people. The quest for genuine cultural icons represented in web sites will continue, but I believe that the number is finite.
I am certain I would have a difficult time justifying more than 75 on an initial
Why a French cultural iconography on the WWW? To be sure, this index is at the shallow end of cultural history, but I believe it can be an effective tool for students and scholars of the discipline, as a point of departure into the many questions of how we view a national culture. It has the advantage of being easily updatable. Though I am not an ardent proponent of the cultural literacy agenda, it would be remiss of me not to point out that one might expect a cultured person with some knowledge of France to at least be able to recognize these symbols. Finally, I have included a questionnaire, not so much to elicit specific specific details about the symbols as to elicit conversation about how symbols represent
My sincere and heartfelt thanks go out to the members of FLTEACH for their generous