Looking through Lincoln

By Brigitte Graf ’13
November 28, 2011

Dr. Jackie Hogan’s new book, “Lincoln, Inc.: Selling the Sixteenth President in Contemporary America,” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2011) reveals as much about Americans as it does about Honest Abe.

In the book, Hogan, chair of Bradley’s Department of Sociology & Social Work and associate professor, explains the different ways Americans view the iconic president. By doing so, she reveals the significance these viewpoints have on our self-image as a nation.

“My goal here was to use the insights of the social sciences to help readers think about Lincoln, and our other national heroes, in a new way,” Hogan said. “I hope to challenge readers to also see the ways subtle inequalities are built into our social system today.”

The inspiration for writing this book came from Hogan’s personal and professional areas of interest. Additionally, a possible family connection was part of her inspiration.

“My grandmother was an amateur genealogist, and she always told us that we were related to Ann Rutledge, the young woman reputed to have been Lincoln's first love,” Hogan said. “I always wanted to learn a bit more about that story.”

From a scholarly standpoint, Hogan wanted to question the widespread use of Lincoln’s image in the state of Illinois, something she first noticed upon moving to the state 11 years ago.

“He was on billboards, product advertisements, buildings; there were even Lincoln-shaped corn mazes in the fall where you could pay five dollars to literally ‘get inside Lincoln's head,’” Hogan said. “It made me wonder why we use him this way.”

According to Hogan, the ways in which we apply Lincoln’s image speaks to how we view our nation as a whole. She admits that drilling into the details of the topic can bring to light some unsavory points.

“Such images can reveal some uncomfortable truths about things such as racial, gender and class inequality in the U.S. today,” Hogan said. “One of my main goals, as a sociologist, is to expose such inequalities so we, as a nation, can more effectively address them.”

Though Hogan’s text is a sociological study, her prose appeals to a wide audience.

“I tried to avoid the kind of specialist jargon and theory that can prove daunting to the general audience,” Hogan said.

“Lincoln, Inc.” will be launched officially Dec. 4 at I Know You Like a Book in Peoria Heights. Earlier this month, Hogan held a book signing at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.

Hogan hopes readers of her new book gain new perspective on one of America’s most renowned presidents.

“One of my main arguments in the book is that the stories we tell ourselves about Lincoln are really stories about us,” Hogan said. “Stories about who we think we are as a nation, and who we wish we could be.”