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Plan II Honors

Carolyn Eastman

Assistant ProfessorPh.D., 2001, Johns Hopkins University

Carolyn Eastman



T C 357 • Making The Self-Made Man

42855 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CRD 007A

         From Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie, popular autobiographies were read by ordinary Americans as entertainment, guides to conduct, calls to reform, examples of national character, and warnings of improper behavior in the early United States.  Taken together, they also exhibit to the historian a variety of models for manliness and self-making, since these individuals “made” themselves as much on the page as in the marketplace—a process that took on particular urgency during the first century of nationhood, when citizenship and patriotism were very much under construction. 

This seminar is designed to enhance students’ skills in historical and cultural analysis by studying transformations in personal identities, gender roles, and modes of self-description as these were represented in published autobiographies.  Of course, the narrative ideal of the self-made man was used by American capitalists and presidents, but it was borrowed and altered by runaway slaves, religious converts, con men, and dangerous women, among others, becoming such a plastic mode that it could be used by anyone.  The primary readings will include both canonic and obscure autobiographies as well as histories of economic success and failure, analyses of self-description in such genres as diaries and speeches, and philosophical treatises on the “self” in the 19th century.


Readings will likely include: 


Horatio Alger, Jr., Ragged Dick

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Fanny Fern, Ruth Hall

Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography and Other Writings

Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women

Stephen Mihm, A Nation of Counterfeiters

Charles Siringo, A Texas Cowboy

Jane Swisshelm, Half a Century

Sojourner Truth, Narrative of Sojourner Truth

Henry Tufts, Autobiography of a Criminal

Geoffrey Wolff, Duke of Deception


First part of research essay (6-7 pgs): 20%

Second part of essay (re-write and extension of 1st paper to approx. 10-12 pgs): 20%

Final research essay (re-write and extension of 2nd paper to approx. 13-15 pgs): 40%

Class participation: 20%


About the Professor

Professor Eastman teaches courses in early American history, gender studies, popular culture, and nationalism.  Her book, A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution (2009) examines the interactions between ordinary men and women and the media during the postwar shaping of the new nation.  She is now working on a new book on gender and visual media in the Atlantic world.  She has held fellowships from the Newberry Library, Harvard’s Houghton Library, and the Library of Congress, and she suggests that everyone read Duke of Deception, whether you’re in the class or not.

T C 357 • Making The Self-Made Man-W

43595 • Spring 2010
Meets MW 1230pm-200pm CRD 007A

TC 357:  Making the Self-Made Man
University of Texas
Spring 2009—Unique Number 43595
Mondays & Wednesdays, 12:30-1:45pm in CRD 007A

Dr. Carolyn Eastman
Phone:  475-7263
Office: Garrison 3.218
Office Hours:  Tuesdays, 4:15-6:15 or by appointment
Main History Office (mailboxes): Garrison 1.104

Course description:
    What captures the American ideal better than the self-made man?  Americans don’t just respect individual accomplishment—they believe social and economic opportunity define Americanness.  The ideal of personal advancement for anyone willing to work hard infuses—and confuses—many of our current political debates, about such issues as taxes, affirmative action, welfare, and health care.
    This ideal did not emerge out of nowhere.  This course will analyze some of the numerous popular autobiographies that appeared in the 19th century, books that helped to create this ideal of the self-made man.  Popular autobiographies served many purposes: as guides to conduct, calls to reform, examples of national character, warnings of improper behavior, or simple entertainment.  Taken together, they can show us how models of economic success, manliness and womanliness, and “the good life” were created through popular literature.  We will scrutinize both the most canonic autobiographies by commanding writers (Franklin, Douglass) as well as little-known documents by far less successful authors.  Along the way, we will use this discourse of the self-made man to analyze three important themes: the importance of status and money in America; the ways Americans set about fashioning themselves into individuals; and the significance of (or impossibility of achieving) sincerity and truth-telling in autobiography.  Our class readings will reveal the ways that a wide variety of individuals—including runaway slaves, criminals, dangerous women, and religious converts—“made” themselves both in life and on the page.

Required readings:
•    Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick (Signet)
•    William Apess, A Son of the Forest (Massachusetts)
•    Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (Nebraska)
•    Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography and Other Writings, 2nd ed. Louis Masur (St. Martin’s)
•    Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Classic Slave Narratives (Mentor)
•    Stephen Mihm, A Nation of Counterfeiters (Harvard)
•    Charles Siringo, A Texas Cowboy (Penguin)
•    Geoffrey Wolff, The Duke of Deception (Vintage)
PACKET available at Paradigm, 407 West 24th Street

1)  Autobiographical story (5 pgs), due Friday, January 29, in my History Dept box (5%)    
Here you will recount an episode from your life in which you did something very, very wrong or otherwise played the bad guy in an event or relationship.  You will have two main objectives with this essay: first, you must describe the event in terms that convince your reader that you were very much to blame; second, you must also attempt to make yourself sympathetic.  This assignment will make us better readers of autobiographies for the entire semester.
2)  1st part of research paper (5-7 pgs), due Friday, February 26, in my History Dept box (25%)
See below for more details.  You should email me with concrete ideas about your choice of source by Friday, Feb. 5 and be absolutely sure by Friday, Feb. 12.
3)  Final draft of research paper (12-15 pgs), due Friday, May 7 in my History Dept box (40%)
This essay will revise the first essay and extend it with new analysis that expands the study.  You will turn it in to one of your fellow students to be peer reviewed on Monday, March 29; he/she will return it to you that Wednesday, giving you four weeks to complete revising and polishing your final draft for final submission.
4)  Class presentations and class participation, peer editing assignment, and attendance (25%)
Presentations required:
1.    Discussion of writing techniques, Wednesday, March 24
Come to class with a provocative, disconcerting, elegant, or otherwise striking opening to any piece of writing—magazine article, novel, academic book, etc.—and be prepared to discuss why you find it such a good opening.
2.    Attendance at and written evaluation of one session from the Plan II Senior Thesis Symposium
This will take place Sunday, April 11; you should attend at least three reports of research done by Plan II seniors and report the next day on which parts of the presentations worked well (and why), which didn’t, and which projects seemed the most exciting to you.
3.    Peer editing assignment, due Wednesday, March 31 (5%)
4.    Regular class attendance.
More than three unexcused absences will affect your grade.  4 absences will drop your grade into the B level; 5 into the C level; and so on.

Research paper:
I will discuss the research paper assignment in detail in class, but in a nutshell:  This will be oriented around one early American autobiography, published before 1920, to be chosen by you.  Our meeting with the bibliographer on Mon., Jan. 25 will assist you in finding one; I will also provide ample ideas.  When choosing a document, think about finding one that allows you to speak to an aspect of the past you find interesting—slavery, Native Americans, financial wizards, scientists, religious visionaries, self-made women, and so on.
On Friday, Feb. 26, you will turn in the first part of your longer paper. Your task with this assignment is to 1) wrap your head around the autobiography that you’ve chosen; 2) develop an argument about it or an analytical perspective on it; and 3) analyze it closely in order to show your reader how you have arrived at  your argument, and display some of the document’s complex and interesting aspects.  Read this document as if it is the only item that you have to explain an interesting aspect of the past.  This 5- to 7-page essay should be a stand-alone essay at this point; it should have an intro and conclusion and be as polished as possible; you will be graded on this draft.
    In the subsequent revised essay due on March 29, you will expand your focus to tie this document and the time period it represents to a broader aspect of American history.  Your final draft, turned in on May 7, will completely polish the document and hone the argument.  Of course, all drafts should be turned in hard copy, not electronically.

Class structure and rules of courtesy:
    This is an intense reading, writing, and discussion seminar.  We will read an average of 140 pages per week, but sometimes this expands much as 300, so please make sure your schedule permits enough time to take care with the readings; this should not be so heavy a reading load that it impedes your semester-long research project.  In addition, taking into account the rewriting you will do this semester, you will also write over 30 pages of prose.  Thus, be certain that you’re willing to read and write this much—and that you’re comfortable holding your own in discussion—before committing to taking this class.
You should come on time to all classes, stay until the end of class, turn off your cell phone (no texting) and be considerate to your professor and classmates by refraining from talking to those around you.  Because I am strongly dedicated to enhancing concentration and thereby the active participation of everyone, I will permit no laptops to be used in class (let’s face it: you’ll just spend your time Facebooking, Twittering, etc).

Academic honesty:
    Students should be fully aware of university rules regarding academic dishonesty which include, but are not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, collusion, falsifying academic records, and any act designed to give unfair academic advantage to the student.  Yes, this applies to all material found online.  Instructors assume that students will fully comply throughout the semester and will observe all university procedures in cases of violations.  See the Student Judicial Services website at

Special needs:
    Upon request, the University provides appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities.  To determine if you qualify, contact the Dean of Students at 471-6259; 471-4641 TTY.  I will work with you to make all appropriate arrangements; be sure to provide me with a copy of the certification letter.    

Blackboard and your email account:
    I will post announcements, office hours, and information about essays on UT’s Blackboard system.  You can login through UT Direct or at  Occasionally I will also need to email the class as a whole, so keep your email address current on UT Direct—and make sure your mailbox isn’t full.

    I’m very straightforward about my grading policies and will be happy to post the general guidelines I use on Blackboard or discuss them with you individually.  Throughout the semester I will provide ample feedback on your work—from helping you rethink the argument to a line-by-line copyediting of your prose: it is one of my goals as a teacher to help you express yourself in the most effective manner possible.  I am always happy to discuss grades with students—but please do so within three weeks of receiving the essay back from me.

Absences, holy days, late assignments, and personal problems:
It is your responsibility to keep me apprised immediately of any illnesses or necessary absences from class, since more than three unexcused absences will adversely affect your grade.    If you get sick, email me and/or provide me with a doctor’s note.  Athletes must present a letter from the Athletics Department detailing all excused absences.  If you need to miss class or an assignment due to the observation of a religious holy day, it is university policy that you must notify us at least fourteen days prior to that event.  Let me know immediately if you have any other problems that are affecting your progress in this class; truly, don’t wait to bring them up, since we can find solutions earlier better than later.  U    nexcused late assignments will lose 4 points per late day, including weekend days. You must complete all assignments within two weeks of the original due date to receive credit.

1.  Introduction:  Thinking about self-making and success in the United States
Wednesday, January 20:
Charlie Rose interview of Dolly Parton, 5 June 2009:, 29 mins total: especially pay attention from ca. 7:30 to 26:30
    Richard Rodriguez, “Introduction,” Brown (pre-circulated).
    Luc Santé, “Be Different! (Like Everyone Else),” New York Times (pre-circulated).
    Grover Cleveland, The Self-Made Man in American Life (1897), 32 pp. (pre-circulated).

2.  Establishing a standard:  “I cannot tell a lie”
Monday, January 25:
    Today we will meet at the PCL (PCL 3.339) for a library tour with Lindsey Schell, a bibliographer, who will help you find an original autobiography for your semester-long project.  Please be sure to get to the room on time.
Wednesday, January 27:
“Parson” Weems, The Life of Washington (1800), pp. ix-liii, 17-23, 29-44, 55-57, 128-41, 225-26.  IN PACKET
Excerpts from George Washington’s “Rules of Civility” (ca. 1747), 4pgs.  IN PACKET
John Martin, “Inventing Sincerity, Refashioning Prudence: The Discovery of the Individual in Renaissance Europe,” American Historical Review (1997): 1309-42.  IN PACKET

5-pg autobiographical story due Friday, January 29, by 5pm in my mailbox in GAR 1.104

3.  The ur-model:  Benjamin Franklin and self-construction in a mobile society
Monday, February 1:
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1791) plus introduction and an excerpt from “Poor Richard,” his almanac persona, pp. 1-125, 175-182.
Wednesday, February 3:
Larzer Ziff, “Writing for Print,” Writing in the New Nation, 83-106.  IN PACKET
Scott Casper, “Introduction,” Constructing American Lives, 1-18.  IN PACKET

By Friday, February 5, email me with concrete ideas about your semester-long research project.  

4.   Establishing one’s sincerity while advancing the cause of the people
Monday, February 8:
    William Apess, “A Son of the Forest” (1829) in A Son of the Forest, ix-xxii and 1-52.
Carolyn Eastman, “The Indian Censures the White Man: ‘Indian Eloquence’ and American Reading Audiences in the Early Republic,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 65 (July 2008): 535-64.  IN PACKET
Wednesday, February 10:
William Grimes, Life of William Grimes (1825), 50 pgs.  IN PACKET

5.   Angry man, devout woman:  Creating an African-American self on the page
Monday, February 15:
Frederick Douglass, “Narrative” (1845), in Gates, ed., Classic Slave Narratives, pp. 323-436.
Wednesday, February 17:
The Life and Religious Experience of Mrs. Jarena Lee (1836), 22 pgs.  IN PACKET.
Felicity Nussbaum, “Of Woman’s Seed:  Spiritual Autobiographies,” 24 pgs.  IN PACKET.
6.   New directions:  Misrepresentation in a representative republic
Monday, February 22:
Stephen Burroughs, Memoirs, pp. 1-8, 23-99, 219-234, 247-264.  IN PACKET
    Larzer Ziff, “Gaining Confidence,” in Writing in the New Nation, 18 pgs.  IN PACKET
    Stephen Mihm, A Nation of Counterfeiters, pp. 20-62
Wednesday, February 24:
    We will take the day off from discussion to give you time to finish your essay.

6 to 7-pg Essay due Friday, February 26, in my mailbox in GAR 1.104

7.   Making it—or not—in the market revolution of the 19th century
Monday, March 1:
    Stephen Mihm, A Nation of Counterfeiters, pp. 1-19, 103-56, 209-59, 360-74.
Wednesday, March 3:
    “A Sketch of the Life of Gideon Lee” (1843), 3 pgs.  IN PACKET
    Alexis de Tocqueville, “On the Pursuit of Wealth” (1835), 2 pgs.  IN PACKET
    Harriet H. Robinson, from Loom and Spindle (1898), 21 pgs.  IN PACKET

8.  From rags to riches:  The children’s story as ideology
Monday, March 8:
    Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick (1868), full text.
Wednesday, March 10:
    Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women, pp. 1-55.  IN PACKET
    Judy Hilkey, “The Success Manual,” Character is Capital, pp. 13-54.  IN PACKET

Week of March 15:  SPRING BREAK

9.  Wild usages:  Language and democratization
Monday, March 22:
A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (1834), pp. 3-16, 45-124.
Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, “Davy Crockett as Trickster,” Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America, 90-108.  IN PACKET.
Wednesday, March 24:
Michael A. Lofaro, “Riproarious Shemales: Legendary Women in the Tall Tale World of the Davy Crockett Almanacs,” Crockett at Two Hundred, ed. Michael Lofaro and Joe Cummings (Knoxville, 1989), 114-152.  IN PACKET
In-class assignment for Wednesday: Discussion of good writing for research essays (see “class presentations” above).

10.  Creating the cowboy mystique in Texas
Monday, March 29:
    Charles Siringo, A Texas Cowboy, pp. 3-23, 41-51, 89-95, 107-30, 146-54, 163-72
Wednesday, March 31:
    Peer editing happy hour, with snacks!
10 to 12-page revised, expanded essay due in class, Monday, March 29; peer editing assignment due in class, Wednesday, March 31
11.  Embracing con artistry in America
Monday, April 5:
P. T. Barnum, Autobiography, pp. 1-27, 106-213.
Wednesday, April 7:
    P. T. Barnum, Autobiography, preface and pp. 214-45.

On Sunday, April 11, beginning at 9am is the Plan II Honors Senior Thesis Symposium, to be held at the McCombs Business School, 3rd Floor.  Your assignment is to attend at least three reports of research by Plan II seniors and report to class on what made for an effective project and public presentation.

12.  “Why crime does not pay”:  The female con artist
Monday, April 12:
Sophie Lyons, excerpts from Why Crime Does Not Pay (1913), 7-28, 89-117, 146-71, 186-211, 238-68.  IN PACKET
Wednesday, April 14:
    In-class viewing:  excerpts from “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999)

13.  Thinking about the meanings of autobiography in the twentieth century
Monday, April 19:
    Geoffrey Wolff, The Duke of Deception, full text
Wednesday, April 21:
    In-class viewing:  most of “Chop Shop” (2007)

14.  What is the American dream doing for us now as we think about the nation?
Monday, April 26:
    In-class viewing:  the remainder of “Chop Shop”
Wednesday, April 28:
“Introduction” and “Shadowy Lines that Still Divide” from Class Matters (2005), 35 pgs. IN PACKET

15.   Self-making in the complex world of 21st-century America
Monday, May 3:
    Jerome Karabel, “The New College Try,” New York Times (2007), 2 pgs. IN PACKET.
Paul Tough, “What It Takes to Make a Student,” NY Times Magazine (2006), 10 pgs.  IN PACKET
Tamar Lewin, “A Marriage of Unequals” from Class Matters (2005), 12 pgs.  IN PACKET
Wednesday, May 5:
Selections from Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America (2009), HANDOUT.

Final Draft of Essay due Friday, May 5 by 5pm in my History Dept box


Eastman, C. (2009) A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution. University of Chicago Press.

Eastman, C. (2009, October) Shivering Timbers: Sexing Up the Pirates in Early Modern Print Culture. Common-Place:

Eastman, C. (2009, September) Fight Like a Man: Gender and Rhetoric in the Early Nineteenth-Century Peace Movement. American Nineteenth-Century History, vol. 10, pp. 247-71.

Eastman, C. (2009) Bucaniers of America. Common-Place, vol. 9, no. 3:

Eastman, C. (2009, January) The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America (book review). William and Mary Quarterly 3rd series (66), 202-205.

Eastman, C. (2008) Rhetoric and Republic: Politics, Civic Discourse, and Education in Early America (book review). New England Quarterly 81: 726-28.

Eastman, C. (2008, September) Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic (book review). H-SHEAR:

Eastman, C. (2007) The Female Cicero:  Young Women’s Oratory and Gendered Public Participation in the Early American Republic. Gender and History 19: 260-83.

Eastman, C. (2008) The Indian Censures the White Man: "Indian Eloquence" and American Reading Audiences in the Early Republic. William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 65: 535-64.

Eastman, C. (2005) Reading the Early Republic by Robert A. Ferguson (book review). New England Quarterly 78: 656-58.

Eastman, C. (2005) Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800 by Ruth Bloch (book review. Social History 30: 250-52.

Eastman, C. (2005) Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, and Women's Political Identity (book review). The Historian vol. 67, pp. 137-38.

Eastman, C. (2005) Rhetoric (encyclopedia entry). Scribner Encyclopedia of the New American Nation.

Eastman, C. (2005) Oratory (encyclopedia entry). The Encyclopedia of New England.

Eastman, C. (2005, September) Lyceums (encyclopedia entry). Encyclopedia of New England.

Eastman, C. (2004, December) Humanism and America: An Intellectual History of English Colonisation, 1500-1625 (book review). Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 5.

Eastman, C. (2004) Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier (book review). Origins: Newsletter of the Scholl Center for Family and Community History

Eastman, C. (2003) Suspect Relations: Sex, Race, and Resistance in Colonial North Carolina (review essay). Reviews in American History

Eastman, C. (2002) The Tyranny of Printers: Newspaper Politics in the Early Republic (book review). H-Shear

Eastman, C. (2002) Possible Pasts: Becoming Colonial in Early America (book review). Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Eastman, C. (2002) Review of Fanny Kemble's Journals. H-Shear

Eastman, C. (1999) Long Walk of the Navajo (encyclopedia entry). Violence in America: An Encyclopedia

Eastman, C. (1998) Letters from the 'Old Home Place': Anxieties and Aspirations in Rural New England, 1836-1843 (book review). Journal of the Early Republic Journal of the Early Republic

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