Jacqueline Kennedy, Frenchness, and French-American Relations in the 1950s and Early 1960s

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Author: Whitney Walton
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This essay examines representations of Jacqueline Kennedy's French connections in American and French popular media and in accounts of the Kennedy presidency to assert her significance in French-American relations and in United States foreign relations broadly construed to include, in Kristin Hoganson's words, “imaginative engagement with peoples“ of other nations and cultures. While biographers routinely acknowledge French influences in Mrs. Kennedy's life and in her practices as first lady, this study focuses on them in depth, notably the undergraduate junior year she spent studying in France in 1949-50 that consolidated her knowledge and appreciation of all things French, and cultivated her interest in other cultures generally. As first lady, she was uniquely positioned to perform these qualities on an international stage. This deployment of Frenchness enhanced her own and JFK's popularity at home and abroad, and suggested a more cosmopolitan way of being American at the height of the Cold War.

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