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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2010

T C 357 • Making the Self-Made Man - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43595 MW
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
CRD 007A

Course Description

From Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie, popular autobiographies were read by ordinary Americans in the early United States as entertainment, guides to conduct, calls to reform, examples of national character, and warnings of improper behavior. 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.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component.

First part of research essay (5 pages): 20%
Second part of essay (re-write of 1st paper and an additional 5 pages): 20%
Final research essay (re-write of 2nd paper and additional 3 pages): 40%
Class participation: 20%


Horatio Alger, Jr., Ragged Dick
Edward Balleisen, Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America
Andrew Carnegie, Autobiography
Narrative of the Life of David Crockett
Fanny Fern, Ruth Hall
Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography and Other Writings
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Classic Slave Narratives
Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women
Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz, Kingdom of Matthias
Sojourner Truth, Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Henry Tufts, Autobiography of a Criminal
Geoffrey Wolff, Duke of Deception

About the Professor

Professor Eastman teaches courses in early American history, gender studies, popular culture, and nationalism. Her book, A Nation of Speechifiers: oratory, print, and the Making of a Gendered American Public, 1780-1830 (forthcoming) examines the ways that ordinary men and women after the Revolution learned to understand their new roles as American citizens and nationals. She has held fellowships from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Newberry Library, and the Library of Congress, and she suggests that everyone read Duke of Deception, whether you're in the class or not.


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