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Authors: Bodick, Noelle Clarice
Advisors: Wilentz, Sean
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Cultural history
Intellectual history
Political history
Subjects: American history
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines a tradition of American critics who anchored their heterodox, large-scaleideas about social relationships and political affairs in the language of love and family kinship. Their subversive political experiments cast a new light on the dialectic between private passion and the remaking of community and nation. From antebellum adherents of free love who founded anarchic villages, to evangelical Christians who imagined a new maternal welfare state and artistic visionaries dreaming of an international ‘family of man’ in the Cold War, American political agitators from the 1850s through the 1950s proposed new structures of civic affiliation premised on, of all things, love. Over the course of these 100 years, the dominant ideology of the ‘separate spheres’ oftenconsigned the forces of intimate affection and care to the precinct of the private home. The protagonists of this project, I argue, rebelled against any such pat division, marshaling the tropes of family bonds to help shape their transformative visions of society. Family, in modern American political history, was therefore never solely constituted by a private parlor for retreat. Rather, it frequently served as a promising and high-stakes model for all of social life. And this hidden tradition has a history, one that has anticipated dramatic shifts in political attitudes in the U.S.: anti-statist before the Civil War, statist after the Civil War, and universalist after WWII. Tracing the contours of these various stages, my dissertation revises historians’ basic understanding of the political and imaginative salience of family ties. Far from being the mere bastion of conservative ‘family values,’ the domestic realm was once a rich quarry for radicals and reactionaries alike seeking to alter dominant structures and institutions in American life. These social visionaries were reformers, artists, poets, nurses, novelists, madmen andprophets, mothers and sons. From different ideological premises, they all tried to answer the question of how, without unjust self-interest, and with only the gentlest of force, bonds of affection might help to fuse together the fragmented pieces of an individualistic, capitalist democracy.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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