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Title:"Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory": The Citizen-Soldier and the Construction of Identity in Northern Civil War Literature
Author(s):Conner, Matthew
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Chai, Leon
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:I analyze the army as an example of the transformation of local symbols into an abstract ideology that takes place in the formation of the modern nation-state, and I focus on literary representations of the citizen-soldier. Rather than a static convention, this figure served as a site of conflict between the individual and the forces of centralization. The citizen-soldier reflected antebellum trends by synthesizing discourses of traditional republicanism with capitalism. However, rather than restoring traditional republican values as intended this synthesis often subverted individual autonomy by legitimizing hierarchical values and bureaucracy, and the army's transformation of symbols led to repression of the individual. Yet, military culture also created empowering forms of identity in its treatment of minorities who were recruited in unprecedented numbers. I show how the uniform culture of the army functioned as a kind of cross-dressing among previously separated cultural groups reminiscent of blackface minstrelsy as described by Eric Lott. In the desire to recover a sense of autonomy, soldier-authors reconceived minorities, particularly African-Americans, women, and Irish immigrants, from Others into symbols of a pre-industrial order characterized by spontaneity and an unrestricted emotional life. Minorities were ultimately recast into ideals of the citizen-soldier which I call icons who symbolized all soldiers. As symbols, they not only performed the identities of specific soldiers but also represented the possibility of performance. They served as performances about performance, and as such they reappropriated military culture from an instrument for the suppression of signs to its opposite---a performative questioning of basic social assumptions. These transformations of identity had consequences for the social position of individual minority groups, regionalist literature, and the development of the modern industries of sport and entertainment.
Issue Date:1999
Description:220 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1999.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI9944825
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:1999

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