Date

2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Adviser

Moglen, Seth

Abstract

My dissertation, “Challenging Martial Manhood: Antiwar Literature in the United States, 1861-2012,” identifies an antiwar literary tradition, from the Civil War to the Iraq War, that criticizes popular martial ideologies that perpetuate war and structure society. In each chapter, I draw upon primary source material and current scholarship to reveal how a specific martial ideology attempts to enshrine war as a predominantly masculine space where combatants can exhibit their status as patriotic Americans. Through close textual analysis, I then examine an author’s portrayal of this martial ideology as a delusive fantasy that masks the horrific reality of war and promotes toxic forms of masculinity. Taken together, these chapters thus chart the evolution of two competing martial narratives across generations. The first, a celebratory narrative, has persistently persuaded generations of young Americans (primarily men) to go to war.It includes the mid-19th-century wartime construct of a “Good Death,” the postbellum depiction of soldiers as Arthurian knights, the post-Reconstruction representation of white racial violence as valorous warfare, and the post-9/11 “Thank You for Your Service” phenomenon. The second, a critical narrative, consists of a diverse group of writers—including Rebecca Harding Davis, Stephen Crane, Charles Chesnutt, and Ben Fountain—who employ a range of sophisticated antiwar aesthetics to disrupt these prominent martial ideologies and to challenge America’s drift toward militarism.

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