In an effort to make my research process more transparent and my writing more widely available, I’ve decided to put two of my more recent conference papers online at academia.edu.
The first, which I will be presenting at the July 2015 meeting of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) in Raleigh, NC, is entitled “One Small Step for Beards, One Giant Leap for Misogyny: Alonzo Lewis and the Imperatives of Manhood.”
The paper shows how the mere invocation of manhood had corrupted the political principles of a nineteenth-century New Englander named Alonzo Lewis. Though generally a pretty decent human being — a poet, educator, abolitionist, and feminist with firm commitments to liberatory politics — Lewis’s involvement in a heated dispute over bear-wearing and manhood had the effect of bringing out a nasty ideological streak. In an effort to figure out why a generally decent human being would suddenly adopt the rhetoric of violent masculine physicality and patriarchal misogyny, I offer some tentative thoughts on how to re-theorize manhood in the early American republic.
The second paper, meanwhile, is entitled “The Beard Goes to War: Men’s Grooming and the American Civil War.” Originally presented at the Society of Civil War Historians in Baltimore, MD in the Summer of 2014, this paper is almost certainly my all-time favorite conference presentation.
Outlining the transformations in ideals of manhood that accompanied the advent of the beard fashion, the paper argues that facial hair constitutes an important and understudied cause of the Civil War. Anchored in an increasingly physical and violent ideal of male behavior, the conversations surrounding the beard helped convince American men (and women) that the solutions to the slavery question and sectional crisis were necessarily violent ones.
Please read and enjoy! Questions and comments are, of course, warmly welcome.