Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Skin and Redemption: Theology in Silent Films, 1902 to 1927

    Author:
    Susan Craig
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Martin Burke
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes theological concepts in silent moving pictures made for commercial distribution from 1902 to 1927, and examines how directors and scenarists sorted through competing belief systems to select what they anticipated would be palatable theological references for their films. A fundamental assumption of this study is that, the artistic and aesthetic pretensions of many silent-era filmmakers notwithstanding, directors generally made decisions in the conception, production and marketing of films primarily to maximize profits in a ruthlessly competitive environment. As such, directors needed to walk a fine line between alienating the lucrative working class and immigrant audiences that were so important to the profitability of the early film industry, while still broadening the appeal of film to a middle-class clientele. As a mechanism for ordering society and guiding individual human conduct, the Christian churches in America by 1900 presented believers with a variety of different, even competing, theologies. While the American-Irish Catholic establishment struggled to maintain its authority in the face of Southern European immigration after 1880, American Protestants argued points of doctrine in divinity schools, from pulpits and in the popular press. From this Protestant debate--about questions such as divine transcendence and immanence, Biblical inerrancy, and the soteriological meaning of Jesus' life and death--emerged two broad strains of belief, which were nearly antithetical. Evangelical Protestants, claimants to Calvinist orthodoxy, sought a traditional salvation experience: conviction of sin and redemption, generally experienced in a revival setting. The emerging modernist wing of Protestantism, on the other hand, shifted its emphasis from ecstatic conversion to the so-called Social Gospel, by which adherents sought to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth. It is my contention that incorporating religious references to the modernist theology adopted by some mainline denominations after the turn of the twentieth century allowed filmmakers to appeal to Progressive-minded Americas while still highlighting universal moral themes that would be acceptable across a broad range of audiences. The symbiosis between the desire of the mainline churches to promulgate a modernist theology and the power of mass media, along with the broad lay familiarity with theological notions, combined to create both a recognizable theological vernacular that directors could tap for scenario ideas, as well as a cultural milieu in which employing sacred themes dramatically and for profit would be not only acceptable, but even appealing to audiences of diverse Christian beliefs. This dissertation examines the result of those choices in a variety of film genres: in historicized Bible stories and humanist portrayals of Jesus from 1902 to 1927; in melodramas that use the Social Gospel theologies of the Kingdom of God and the brotherhood of man as a framework for social problem films during the period from 1908 to 1921; in explorations of Christology (themes of atonement and redemption) in feature films from 1915 to 1922; and in recasting familiar notions of sin in comedies and dramas from 1914 to 1928.

  • Transcendent Reform: Quaker Women and Social Reform During the Hicksite Schism

    Author:
    Jody Cross-Hansen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Barbara Welter
    Abstract:

    Abstract TRANSCENDENT REFORM: QUAKER WOMEN AND SOCIAL REFORM DURING THE HICKSITE SCHISM by Jody Cross-Hansen Adviser: Professor Barbara Welter This thesis explores the role of Quaker women in social reform during the period from 1790-1920, particularly among the leading female reformers of the Northeast, focusing especially on the reforms of abolition, women's rights and peace witness. Nancy Hewitt's question is addressed; did the Hicksite schism lead to liberal reform among women? That is, were there positive repercussions from the Hicksite schism for women in the sense that the Hicksite schism became the platform for the women's movement, or that Hicksite Quaker women were far more involved in liberal social reforms than their Orthodox Quaker counterparts? The study concludes that Hicksite and Orthodox Quaker women were equally involved in liberal social reform and activism, but that they differed primarily in the expression of their theological beliefs and hermeneutics. Certain radical theological beliefs of the Hicksites may have caused some historians to make assumptions that the Hicksites were more "liberal" in every way than the Orthodox, but in the core Quaker values which unite them in reform--their belief in peace, human equality and social justice, they were actually similar. As for the creation of the woman's rights movement, the study charts two theories of the creation of the women's movement--One that begins in Seneca Falls with the Women's Rights Convention of 1848 which involves predominantly Hicksite Quakers, and the second which sees the creation of the American women's rights movement evolving from the work of female abolitionists. This second theory focuses largely on Orthodox Quaker women. The study also describes how the creation of the American Friends Service Committee in the early 20th century, as a merger of Hicksites and Orthodox Quakers concerned with peace and international humanitarian reform, served as an early healing of the Hicksite schism and symbolized the core Quaker values that characterized the denomination and united the reformers in their activities throughout the centuries. (The Quaker denomination split in 1828 into two divisions, Hicksite and Orthodox, and did not officially reunite until 1955. Nancy Hewitt is one of the only historians who suggests there might have been one positive outcome to the schism: women's reform. )

  • THE DISSOLUTION OF A REPUBLICAN: DANIEL WALDO LINCOLN, 1784-1815

    Author:
    Rebecca Dresser
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Andrew Robertson
    Abstract:

    Recent scholarship on the first generation of Americans born after the Revolution has focused on the entrepreneurial spirit and individualism of young people eager to create a nation of equal opportunity. The rise and spread of a democratic polity couched within an expanding liberal economy shaped new definitions of self and position. For Daniel W. Lincoln the second son of Levi Lincoln, the prominent Democratic-Republican of Massachusetts, the new cultural and political landscape brought contradictory and unsettling consequences. As an inheritor of the Revolution and a Republican, he outwardly espoused his father's principles and championed a country of equal laws, equal rights, and equal opportunity for every man. Socially, however, he was conservative, a closet cultural Federalist, who preferred deference, philosophy and poetry to politics and partisanship. For an elite Republican in Massachusetts such as Daniel Lincoln, there were few likeminded souls who shared his sensibilities. The tension between the equality intrinsic to Jeffersonian ideology and the elitism Daniel naturally gravitated toward left him a lonely melancholic and progressively more out of step with his peers. He increasingly turned to alcohol for relief with disastrous consequences. Throughout his life Daniel tried his best to exemplify those values which he claimed to revere, but his inability to control his drinking abrogated these standards, embarrassed and disappointed his father, and alienated him from the respect and affection of his peers. He died of alcohol-related illness when he was only thirty-one. Daniel Lincoln's story is more than a case study of nineteenth century failure. He succeeded professionally as a lawyer and Republican orator. He had a thriving law practice in Boston as well as in Portland, Maine. Based on over 250 letters Daniel wrote to his family and friends, this dissertation provides an unusually intimate look at the effect of changing nineteenth century definitions of deference, class, gender and politics. Daniel Lincoln's letters chronicle a new perspective of a nation in transition and add to the richness and complexity of the historical synthesis of the early American republic.

  • The 'Silent Arrival': The Second Wave of the Great Migration and its Affects on Black New York, 1940-1950

    Author:
    Carla DuBose-Simons
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Judith Stein
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores black New York in the 1940s with an emphasis on the demographic, economic, and social effects of the World War II migration of blacks to the city. Using census data this study examines the basic characteristics of the migrants moving to New York during the war years; characteristics such as state of origin, age, and sex. It also maps where these migrants settled in the city revealing new areas of black settlement outside of Harlem, the largest black neighborhood in the city. Black New Yorkers, looking to escape the high rents, dilapidated living conditions, and increasing crime rates left Harlem. Attracted to the integrated working-class neighborhood by the abundance of newer housing, better schools, and fresher air, hundreds of Harlem's families settled in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. Thousands of new migrants chose to move to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn which was in close proximity to many of the city's war industries and where a small black community already existed. Many of Bedford-Stuyvesant's white residents opposed black settlement; some organizing campaigns to prevent blacks from moving in and others fleeing the neighborhood. By the end of the 1940s white flight and black settlement had transformed Bedford-Stuyvesant into New York City's second largest black neighborhood. One of the primary reasons southern blacks migrated to New York during World War II was employment opportunities available in war industries. When New York factories began converting to war production, many did not hire black workers and those that did placed them in unskilled and janitorial positions. This dissertation explains the process by which blacks found skilled and semi-skilled jobs in industries making ships, electrical instruments, and scientific instruments. Civil Rights organizations, most importantly the Brooklyn Urban League, pressured the state and federal governments into taking steps to integrate war industries. These organizations used the State War Council's Committee on Discrimination and the Fair Employment Practices Committee to open new occupations to African Americans and ensure the fair treatment of those blacks employed in war industries. Initiatives for equal employment opportunities for blacks were at the center of civil rights activism during the 1940s.

  • Nurses Challenging Subordination: Gender, Class and Religion in Britain's Crimean War

    Author:
    Moira Egan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Bonnie Anderson
    Abstract:

    Beginning in October, 1854, middle-class female volunteers, paid nurses, and members of Anglican and Roman Catholic women's religious orders left Britain and Ireland to work as military nurses in the Crimean War. Florence Nightingale has received thorough scholarly and popular analysis, but the rest of the contingent is understudied. The Crimean War was the first conflict in which British women worked as military nurses. I analyze their work through the perspectives of gender, class and religion, using nurses' correspondence, journals, contemporary letters, news articles and documents. I argue that military nursing provided women with a unique opportunity which they seized to widen their "sphere." This service allowed them to contravene the usual strictures on genteel female behavior and work against anti-Catholic bias. Though the government needed the services of the nurses, who had worked in famine hospitals and cholera epidemics before the war, officials were nonetheless concerned about the presence of Catholic and high Anglican sisters on the wards of military hospitals. All agreed that their primary responsibility was care of the sick, yet the sisters also took seriously their responsibilities to minister to the spiritual needs of soldiers. Throughout their working lives, the Anglican and Roman Catholic Sisters served their nation and advocated for the poor. My analysis of religious women who supported Britain's war effort breaks new ground in women's history in showing how seemingly traditional women renegotiate cultural norms, avoiding the censure a more overt challenge would cause. Roman Catholic sisters were doubly subordinated by gender and denomination. Their and the Anglican sisters' unpaid work of managing Church-sponsored institutions and revitalizing religious practice in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches has too often been attributed to the work of prominent churchmen. My work illustrates the sisters' role in reshaping mid-Victorian religious identity. By placing themselves in harm's way, attending to wounded and dying soldiers, avoiding scandals and gossip, the nurses helped to forge paths out of the home for women in the later Victorian decades.

  • Eduardo Chibás: The Incorrigible Man of Cuban Politics

    Author:
    Ilan Ehrlich
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Alfonso Quiroz
    Abstract:

    There is ample evidence to suggest that Eduardo Chibás (1907-1951), despite never having been president, was of primary importance to Cuba's political system in the years 1940-1952. As a congressman, senator and presidential candidate who was also the island's most popular radio commentator, Chibás was afforded an excellent opportunity to alter government policy and shape public opinion. Specifically, Chibás denounced what he saw as the vices and inadequacies of Cuba's fledgling democracy, especially corruption in public office. By all accounts, Chibás was a man of unquestioned probity. Unlike his political rivals, who gained financially from their elected positions, Chibás' economic position declined - leading him to sell the family residence, built by his father, to pay for his 1948 presidential campaign. Chibás' participation in Cuba's 1933 revolution, which overthrew the dictatorial government of Gerardo Machado (1925-1933), and in the mass strikes of 1935, which opposed Fulgencio Batista's first military regime (1934-1940), enhanced his public stature and lent him further political credibility. Moreover, the scandal-plagued Auténtico administrations of Ramón Grau San Martín (1944-1948) and Carlos Prío Socorrás (1948-1952) fell far short of the Cuban public's expectations - helping to swell the ranks of Chibás followers. Through personal charisma and media savvy Chibás revived the prospect of efficient and transparent governance through a renewal of the nation's institutions led by his Ortodoxo party. These hopes were dashed suddenly when Chibás shot himself three times in the stomach during his broadcast of August 5, 1951. His death 11 days later deprived the island of its most admired politician. In the short term, Chibás' influence was felt in the fact that the two major candidates for the 1952 presidency were Roberto Agramonte (Chibás' ex vice presidential candidate), and Carlos Hevia - both of whom were honest, albeit un-charismatic, figures. Hevia was only the third most popular politician in his own (Auténtico) party according to opinion polls. His nomination thus owed a great deal to Chibas' strident attacks on malversation. On the other hand, the disappearance of Cuba's most popular and magnetic politician surely facilitated the military coup, headed by Fulgencio Batista, that took place a mere seven months after Chibás' suicide.

  • Jewish at the Front: The Experience of Jewish Officers in the German Army in World War I

    Author:
    David Fine
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Julia Sneeringer
    Abstract:

    The story I seek to tell argues for full Jewish integration in the army, acceptance of a particular Jewish identity but an amalgamation of that identity to being German. After the initial introductory chapter that explores historiographical and methodological questions, Chapter Two examines the experience of religion at the front. Jewish holidays offered an opportunity for Jewish soldiers to seek solace in their religion and comraderie with their fellow Jews. The Christian holidays posed a challenge in how to celebrate with their Christian comrades. Jewish soldiers were able to "read" the Christian symbolism of sacrifice as it was used at the front, although with careful distance. In Chapter Three I discuss the encounter of German Jewish soldiers with Eastern European Jews on the eastern front. Jewish soldiers responded to the Eastern Jews positively, negatively, or indifferently, but always with distance. The encounter often intensified their own Jewish identity, and yet the Eastern Jew remained as "Other," even if an ethnic "grandparent." In the final chapter, I discuss experiences of antisemitism--excluding the Judenzaehlung--and integration. Narrative anecdotal eveidence is mixed with quantitative evidence culled from the cemeteries, published sources and archival material in order to clarfiy the extent of Jewish integration in the German army. I find that Jewish soldiers found integration and that antisemitism was not a significant factor in their war experience. Theirs was a war where they found themselves as Jews, men, soldiers and Germans, fighting for a future that might have been.

  • Transnational Mechanics: Automobility in Mexico, 1895-1950

    Author:
    John Freeman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Alfonso Quiroz
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the rise of a particular way of moving through space in the form of motorized travel, and its political, cultural, and economic implications in Mexico during the first half of the twentieth century. It begins by tracing the origins of automobile use during the later years of the Porfirian era (1876-1911), followed by its curious expansion in the midst of armed revolution, world war, and a period of rapid innovation in the US automotive industry during the 1910s. When the country slowly broke free from the grip of national upheaval at the onset of the 1920s, post-revolutionary state builders, foreign and domestic business interests, and consumers joined forces in order to solve a challenging crisis in communications that had been brought about by the destruction and growing inefficiency of the nation's expansive but unevenly distributed railway system and network of urban tramways. Over the quarter century between the end of the Mexican Revolution and conclusion of the Second World War, as roads expanded from cities through the combined and at times competing actions of public and private interests, and automobiles flowed over the border from the United States, Mexican citizens became increasingly dependent on cars, buses, trucks, and gasoline for everything from getting around and between urban areas and maintaining the food supply of cities to leisure tourism. By mid-century, and through the forces of consumer preference, technological innovation, the pursuit of profit by automotive industry interests, and the promotion of motoring by a government intent on hastening the modernization of Mexican citizens and the domestic economy, the character of space and mobility had been fundamentally altered. More than half of the country's passengers and as much cargo as that hauled on the railway were being shuttled around the nation in motorized machines, while foreign and domestic automobile tourism had become a major industry. During the following decades, the Mexican state would seek to consolidate this transformation by aiding in the establishment of an expansive national automobile industry, continuing the costly construction of roads, and subsidizing gasoline for the Mexican consumer.

  • The Cycling City: Bicycles and the Transformation of Urban America

    Author:
    Evan Friss
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    David Nasaw
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the rise and fall of urban cycling in the 1890s. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, bicycles invaded American cities. Millions of cyclists reveled in the utilitarian and recreational uses of the machine, pedaling to work, exercising their bodies, and escaping the chaos of the city. In the process, cyclists and a broad group of city reformers, politicians, and engineers redrew the blueprints of the American city. They imagined, and actually began to build, a city in which smooth asphalt stretched across the entire metropolis, specially designed bicycle paths and roads promoted and facilitated bicycle transportation, and traffic regulations accounted for the rising number of cyclists and the complications that they added to the urban network. Likewise, doctors dreamed of a cycling city defined by the improved health of its citizens; sanitarians of an environment devoid of horses, filth, and disease; women of a completely accessible city. Indeed, as a practically noiseless, non-polluting, health-inducing, liberating, and private vehicle, the bicycle offered the promise of a revitalized, healthful, clean, and moral urban environment. In short, it offered the chance to make the modern city more livable. As the first private vehicle affordable to the masses, bicycles began to satisfy an established desire for a private transportation option as urban Americans celebrated mobility, independence, and flexibility. As cycling became democratized, a coalition of cyclists and their allies coalesced into a powerful group that influenced the city-building process. To a startling degree, they succeeded in implementing "bicycle-friendly" planning techniques, incorporating bicycle paths, bicycle valets, and laws favorable to cyclists. At this moment in history, American cities were the leaders in accommodating urban cycling. Although cycling in European cities would persist far longer than in the United States, American cities had laid the path toward a future in which cycling would remain a critical component of the urban transportation network. Yet suddenly, by the turn-of-the-century, the popularity of cycling in the United States dropped dramatically. That Americans developed an unrivaled taste for automobiles and that city planners would follow suit was not a foregone conclusion. In all, bicycles reshaped both the physical design of American cities and the lives of their inhabitants. Although its lifespan was brief, the bicycle was a transformative instrument.

  • Rufus King and the History of Reading: The Use of Print in the Early American Republic

    Author:
    David Gary
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Martin Burke
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the reading history, book collecting, and the use of print by the early American politician and diplomat Rufus King. Over the course of his life, King collected a vast library of books, pamphlets, and maps, and deployed print as a political weapon over his forty-year public career. He read widely in history, philosophy, and law, but did not read as an intellectual trying to answer abstract questions; he read purposively in a lawyerly fashion to solve problems or construct political arguments. King was a pragmatic reader who appropriated texts for specific political intentions. Evidence of this appropriation can be found in the marginalia in his personal library, commonplace notebooks, and scrap notes in his archive. It is the argument of this dissertation that the private act of reading was often the first step in the political process and had public consequences. As a well-read Enlightenment figure who was an efficient organizer of information, it is essential to understand the management of his reading in order to grasp his Federalist politics. An analysis of King's reading history opens up new understandings of his politics and demonstrates he had an overarching political program designed to promote the legitimacy of the new American nation among the older nations of the world. This dissertation focuses on the step before the emergence of national identity, the struggle to be accepted as a nation by the rest of the world. Several episodes in King's political career confirm his desire to acquire and defend national legitimacy, including his defense of the Jay Treaty (1795-1796), his diplomacy in Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1803), his promotion of free trade and reciprocity after the War of 1812, and his anti-slavery speeches during the Missouri Controversy (1819-1821). In all, private reading defined the way King viewed the world and played a prominent role in his public life. It allowed him to build his own identity and demonstrates a larger political project that previous work on King has not focused on.