Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Ian Christopher Fletcher

Second Advisor

Joe Perry

Third Advisor

Larry Youngs

Fourth Advisor

Michele Reid-VazquezIn recent years, scholars have emphasized the importance of collective memory in the making of national identity. Where does death fit into the collective memory of American identity, particularly in the economic and social chaos of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? How did death shape the collective memory of American national identity in the midst of a pluralism brought on by immigration, civil and labor rights, and a transforming culture? On the one hand, the commemorations of public figures such as Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt constructed an identity based on Anglo-Saxonism, American imperialism, and the “Strenuous Life.” This was reflected in the burial of American soldiers of the Spanish American and Philippine American wars and the First World War. On the other hand, the commemorations of soldiers and sailors from the Civil War, Spanish American War, and Great War created opportunities to both critique and appropriate definitions of national identity. Through a series of case studies, my dissertation brings together cultural and political history to explore the (re)production and (trans)formation of American identity from the Civil War to the Great War. I am particularly interested in the way people used funerals and monuments as tools to produce official and vernacular memory. I argue that both official and vernacular forms of commemoration can help historians understand the social and political tensions of creating national identity in a burgeoning industrial and multicultural society.

Abstract

In recent years, scholars have emphasized the importance of collective memory in the making of national identity. Where does death fit into the collective memory of American identity, particularly in the economic and social chaos of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? How did death shape the collective memory of American national identity in the midst of a pluralism brought on by immigration, civil and labor rights, and a transforming culture? On the one hand, the commemorations of public figures such as Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt constructed an identity based on Anglo-Saxonism, American imperialism, and the “Strenuous Life.” This was reflected in the burial of American soldiers of the Spanish American and Philippine American wars and the First World War. On the other hand, the commemorations of soldiers and sailors from the Civil War, Spanish American War, and Great War created opportunities to both critique and appropriate definitions of national identity. Through a series of case studies, my dissertation brings together cultural and political history to explore the (re)production and (trans)formation of American identity from the Civil War to the Great War. I am particularly interested in the way people used funerals and monuments as tools to produce official and vernacular memory. I argue that both official and vernacular forms of commemoration can help historians understand the social and political tensions of creating national identity in a burgeoning industrial and multicultural society.

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History Commons

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