Date of Award

4-24-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Jared Poley - Chair

Second Advisor

Glenn Eskew

Third Advisor

Alecia Long

Abstract

This dissertation examines how honor was fashioned in the New South by examining the masculine roles performed by William Greene Raoul, Jr. Raoul wrote his autobiography in the mid-1930s and in it he reflected on his life on the New South's frontier at the turn of the century as change came to the region in all aspects of life: politically, economically, socially, sexually, and racially. Raoul was an elite son of the New South whose memoirs, "The Proletarian Aristocrat," reveals a man of multiple masculinities, each with particular ways of retrieving his past(s). The paradox of his title suggests the parallel organization of Raoul's recollections. The "aristocrat" framed the events of a lifetime through a lens of honor, sustained by southern gentlemen who restrained masculine impulses on the one hand and avoided dependency on the other. Raoul the "proletarian" cast honor through an ideological retrospective whereby traumatic memories of disappointment and failure were re-fashioned through a distinctly politicized view constructed rather than recalled. Raoul's business failures led him to re-conceptualize masculine honor as a quality possessed more by the emerging working class than the rising commercial class. Memory operates in this project as more than mere methodology as assumptions about access to the past through memory are subordinated to an examination of the meaning of the memories rehearsed by Raoul. Raoul wrote his autobiography at a bittersweet moment in his life. While his personal fortune had been nearly wiped out by the stock market crash of October 1929, he clearly looked back on his career in the New South as a committed radical with delight as the Great Depression called into question the legitimacy of the capitalist system that he had long held responsible for his own professional failures in a variety of endeavors, from the cotton-mill industry to box-car building and from saw manufacturing to a practicing accountant. Raoul converted to Socialism in part to join what he regarded as society's most progressive and virile force. It is these two voices, the proletarian and the aristocrat, that are under examination here.

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